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!

marriage-based visa

The pathway to United States citizenship involves many complex options and, at times, confusing criteria. Immigration law in the United States is continually evolving and changing and can cause a lot of tension for immigrants trying to figure out how it all works. Applying for a green card based on a marriage can seem like an easy procedure. However, there’s a lot to understand to this process of marriage-based visas, and it can be the difference between an approval and a denial.

What is a Marriage-Based Visa?

The marriage-based visa is one option for an immigrant to apply for a green card. It is based on their marriage to a U.S. lawful permanent resident or a U.S. citizen. There are some common misconceptions when it comes to marriage-based visas. Most individuals tend to think that it’s an automatic ticket to U.S. citizenship, and it just involves filing some paperwork. However, the overall application is still a long and tedious process with an intense petition undertaking.

What are the Requirements to Obtain a Marriage-Based Visa?

The process of filing for a marriage-based visa is pretty straightforward. However, the overall operation comes with its hurdles and requires applicants to prove that their marriage is real and valid. To qualify for this specific visa, you will need to show the following:

  • You are legally married to a U.S. Citizen or a U.S. lawful permanent resident.
  • Your marriage is real and not fraudulent. Specifically, you are proving that your marriage is not just done for a green card.
  • Documentation of your spouse’s lawful permanent resident status or U.S. citizenship.
  • Proof that neither of you is married to someone else.

The Process:

To prove that you qualify for this visa, you will need to submit to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) the required Form I-130, along with proof that your spouse is a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident, and that you have a bona fide marriage. Once USCIS approves the I-130, you will be required to pay specific fees and fill out additional paperwork that the National Visa Center (NVC) will need. Once the NVC receives all your documentation, your case will be sent to a U.S. consulate located in your home country, where you will be required to obtain a medical exam by an approved doctor and attend an interview.

If everything is complete, you will receive your immigrant visa and will be able to present it at the U.S. border to receive a stamp in your passport indicating your green card status. This whole process can be tedious and stressful, that’s why if at any point you have questions or concerns don’t hesitate to call experienced professionals that can walk you through it and answer any questions that you may have.

Does a Criminal Record Affect this Process?

During your application process for your marriage-based visa, you will encounter questions that involve your specific criminal history. The government wants to know any interactions that you have had with law enforcement and will want you to provide detailed information. You should to indicate any charges or arrests that you had, even if they have been dismissed. Having a criminal history may complicate your overall process, but they will not automatically cause your case to be denied. Although, there are three significant crimes that most likely cause inadmissibility and should be discussed with an attorney before proceeding with your filing. They are:

  1. Crimes involving an Aggravated Felony
  2. “Moral Turpitude” Crimes
  3. Illegal Drug Crimes

How Do Marriage-Based Visa’s Affect Immigrants and the Country?

There have been countless discussions on marriage-based visas, and their impact on the United States. However, the common theme in these discussions is how beneficial this visa is to overall economic U.S. growth and the country’s diversity. It’s an opportunity to expand the U.S. borders and bring in immigrants with skills that will be valuable to the people of the United States and U.S. economy.

Contact Immigration Law Group!

Obtaining a marriage-based visa can be a daunting process that can cause a lot of headaches for a couple. But, with Immigration Law Group, our knowledgeable and experienced staff can make this process a lot easier and less stressful. We will answer any question and help you prepare your submission. If you need any further information or would like to schedule a meeting, contact us today.

new visa policies

U.S. work and student visa policies have been changing since time immemorial. However, President Donald Trump proposed a change in immigration policies. These changes restrict non-US citizens and immigrants permanently or temporarily from studying, living, and working in the United States.

According to the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP), the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) data analysis shows that the denial rates for H-1B visa petition has risen from 6% to 32% in 2015 and mid 2019 respectively. This is as a result of the USCIS raising the standards of approved H-1b petition.

What Visa Policies Are Changing?

The most affected policy is the H-1b visa. The policy changes are aimed at improving and streamlining of the allocation of the H-1B visa. This will be achieved by slicing the administrative burden of processing the application, and to transform the selection process in favor of U.S. applicants holding master’s degrees.

The other proposed changes refers to the OPT (Optional Practical Training) program, which allows international students under the F-1 study visas to freely work in the USA for only 12 months. The changes might limit them from receiving work authorization.

Another proposed change involves the H-4 work permit program allowing H-1B visa holders’ spouses to work in the United States. Trump’s administration will not give work permit to these spouses.

How Do New Visa Policies Impact Immigrants?

1. Decline in jobs for international students

A study by NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers) showed that the number of employers in the U.S. planning to hire international students dropped to 23.4% in 2018 after years of consistent growth that reached 34.2% in 2015.

2. Increase in immigration fees

The cost of becoming a U.S citizen will be 83% more expensive, and it will raise the application fees required for legal permanent residency from $1,022, to 2,915 and the citizen application fee from $640 to $1,170.

3. Fewer students applying for colleges in the U.S.

According to the Institute of International Education (IIE), enrollment of new international students in the United States has reduced by 6.6% between 2017 and 2018, and has continued to go down.

This is not favorable for the economy or the universities as well because international students pay higher fees that native Americans. For instance, in 2017, the students contributed up to $42 billion to the economy through board and room, tuition among other expenses. That’s why some colleges have reclassified economic majors into STEM degrees.

4. Foreign tech workers are moving to Canada

As a result of the proposed changes, most large corporations may be forced to relocate their jobs abroad. For example, Microsoft had announced a huge expansion in Canada planning to build new headquarters in Toronto and hire 500 more employees.

In addition, the Canadian government invited skilled people in the computer and tech related fields to sign up for permanent residence under the Express Entry Program. Out of the 86,022 invites sent in 2017, Indians got 42%, China behind by 9%, Nigeria received 6% and Pakistan got 4%. The number of Indians admitted in 2016 was 9,584, which rose to 26,340 in 2017.

Do Changing Visa Policies Affect the U.S.?

Change in visa policies has pushed highly skilled foreigners out of the U.S. significantly reducing innovation. As a result, foreign affiliate employment has increased due to the increasingly strict restrictions on the H-1B visas. Multinational firms are likely to establish new foreign affiliates outside the U.S., especially in fields where services can be off-shored.

Contact Immigration Law Group!

Looking for an immigration lawyer? Well, look no further! At Immigration Law Group we have top-rated immigration lawyers to help you obtain U.S. citizenship and visas. Contact us today to help you become a lawful permanent U.S. citizen.

migrant protection protocol

Under the current political administration, many of the established immigration laws, like the Migrant Protection Protocol, are being profoundly altered and scrutinized to limit the number of people arriving at the US- Mexico border. Because of these new policies, there has been constant chaos for vulnerable asylum seekers. It is leaving thousands of migrants to deal with dangerous conditions, family separations, and a terrible health environment.

What is the Migrant Protection Protocol?

The Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) are actions implemented by the U.S. Government. It states migrants that are entering illegally or seeking admission without proper documentation into the United States from Mexico must wait in Mexico for the duration of their immigration proceedings. Per the regulation, Mexico will be required to provide the asylum seekers humanitarian protections during this period.

What are the Dangers of the MPP?

This intention of the MPP policy was to create a more efficient and orderly immigration system. Instead, this new regulation requires migrants to wait for months or years in dangerous camps while their case is processed. Many of these migrants are already fleeing terrible conditions, only to be required to stay in camps that have become life-threatening and treacherous.

This new asylum policy has led these migrants to live in some of the most dangerous cities located at the Mexico border. Thus, resulting in a wave of kidnappings, sexual assaults, and rapes. Many criminal organizations have seized opportunities from this new MPP policy by abducting these endangered asylum migrants waiting at the border. They have kept them hostage until their families pay thousands of dollars for their release. Not only is crime a massive issue for these immigrants, but health concerns are also on the rise, as the health conditions at these camps continue to worsen. Without clean water, many immigrants must use the polluted Rio Grande to take care of their essential needs. This usage has resulted in many rashes and a plethora of other health problems.

The whole premise of the MPP was to reduce threats of life and protect vulnerable populations. This objective has been gravely missed. Ideally, the program would have found ways to increase capacity at the ports of entry or improve the detention programs. Rather this policy has led to expanding our asylum system’s current inefficiencies and creating dangerous conditions. As the enforcement of the “Remain in Mexico” program continues, it leaves thousands of migrants to handle the immigration crisis on their own while ultimately putting their lives, safety, and health at risk.

How does the MPP Affect Immigrants and the U.S.?

Under the MPP policy, it makes it nearly impossible for migrants to obtain asylum when they reach the United States. Instead, it leaves these individuals to handle terrible conditions, chaos, and a lot of suffering.  However, it is not only the migrants that are hurting under this regulation.

With the additional border security required under this policy, its forced thousands of U.S. federal employees to work without pay. This policy has created an immense burden for many U.S. officials and has created an overall legal and humanitarian nightmare. Not just an immigration issue, the MPP policy has become a disaster for people and the country as a whole.

Call Immigration Law Group!

Under the current Trump Administration, immigration policies are continually being changed.  It’s more important than ever to have qualified professionals working on your immigration case.

With Immigration Law Group, you can be confident that you are getting the best legal services specific to your case. If you have an immigration question or would like to discuss your immigration case, contact our dedicated and experienced staff today.