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.

Consequences of COVID-19 on U.S. immigration policy

In the midst of our interconnected world, COVID-19 has rapidly spread and awakened the world’s anxieties while new related policies have abruptly restricted human movement. As the Trump Administration attempts to contain the contemporary strain of Coronavirus, U.S. immigration policy has been shaped by the crisis.

Impacts of COVID-19 on restrictions on U.S. Visas and Entry

On March 15, the National Association of Immigration Judges, ICE Professionals Union, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association called for the emergency closure of American Immigration Courts to adhere to the COVID-19 public health protocols.

UPDATE: Effective March 18th, 2020, the Department of Justice has postponed all non-detained hearings.

President Trump has issued the following four COVID-19 related proclamations that limit travel to the United States:

  • China Travel Proclamation, effective since February 2, 2020, suspends the entry into the United States of all aliens who were physically present within the People’s Republic of China during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.
  • Iran Travel Proclamation, otherwise known as the Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus, effective since March 2, 2020, suspends entry of all aliens who were physically present in the Islamic Republic of Iran during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.
  • European Schengen Area Proclamation, effective since March 13, 2020, suspends the entry into the U.S. of all aliens who were physically present within the Schengen Area during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. The written proclamation articulates that the suspension, “shall remain in effect until terminated by the President.”
  • Ireland and United Kingdom Proclamation, effective since March 16, 2020, bans entry into the U.S. of all aliens physically present within the U.K. or the Republic of Ireland during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United State.

Note: according to NAFSA Association of Intellectual Educators, these proclamations do not apply to any U.S. citizen, or to any alien who is:

  1. a lawful permanent resident of the U.S.
  2. a spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident
  3. a parent or legal guardian of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, provided that the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident is unmarried and under the age of 21;
  4. a sibling of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, provided that both are unmarried and under the age of 21;
  5. a child, foster child, or ward of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, or who is a prospective adoptee seeking to enter the United States pursuant to the IR-4 or IH-4 visa classifications;
  6. an alien traveling at the invitation of the United States Government for a purpose related to containment or mitigation of the virus;
  7. C (transit) or D (air or sea crewmember) nonimmigrants
  8. an alien whose entry would not pose a significant risk of introducing, transmitting, or spreading the virus, as determined by the CDC Director, or his designee;
  9. an alien whose entry would further important United States law enforcement objectives, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees based on a recommendation of the Attorney General or his designee; or
  10. an alien whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their designees.

U.S. consular offices are temporarily closed in China. All routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments in India have been cancelled since March 16, 2020. Likewise, U.S. consular services in Italy have been reduced since March 10, 2020.

According to the Migration Policy Institute, never before has the U.S. Administration pursued such a comprehensive travel ban. President Trump’s four proclamations are the most widespread measures ever undertaken by the U.S. government in the context of a public-health threat, screening individuals across the “migration continuum”: during visa application, during plane boarding, and at the arrival to physical borders.

President Trump has suggested that he is considering completely closing the U.S.-Mexico border, regardless of the fact that there are far more reported Coronavirus cases in the U.S. than in Mexico. Migrants have consistently served as the scapegoats for public-health concerns. For instance, Cholera was known as the “Irish disease” in the 1830s.

COVID-19 and USCIS

The USCIS has released a statement requesting aliens to reschedule their appointments or interviews with any USCIS office if they have traveled internationally to any country outside the U.S. within 14 days of the appointment if they believe they may have been exposed to COVID-19, or experience any flu-like symptoms.  Additionally, the USCIS Field office has canceled some upcoming scheduled interviews this week in an effort to reduce the number of applicants coming into the building.

UPDATE: As of March 18, 2020, USCIS has announced that domestic field offices will be closing to the general public for in-person services until April 7th 2020.  This means scheduled immigration and naturalization interviews between that time will be canceled and rescheduled to a later date and time.  For more information, go to uscis.gov.

Likewise, the Department of Homeland and Security (DHS) has noted that both Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office (CWMD) have worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by conducting enhanced screening at 11 major American airports. At and between all air, land, and sea Ports of Entry, CBP officers and Border Patrol agents are identifying individuals with COVID-19 symptoms or with a travel history to China or Iran in the former 14 days. These individuals are referred to CDC or any other local public health officials for further health screening.

COVID-19 and the Public Charge Rule 

While the “Public Charge” rule has discouraged immigrants from accessing healthcare, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) noted on March 14, 2020, that treatment or preventive services for the COVID-19 would not negatively affect any alien as part of a future Public Charge analysis. The USCIS emphasizes that it encourages all aliens with symptoms that resemble COVID-19 to seek necessary medical attention.

Despite this statement released by the USCIS, there is the possibility that past legislature, such as the “Remain in Mexico” policy and the “Public Charge” act, may exacerbate the crisis if immigrants continue to resist accessing health care out of fear of being negatively impacted. Past immigration enforcement has cultivated a sense of distrust in Latinx communities towards American institutions, which may indirectly endanger the well-being of many Americans especially during this pandemic as fewer individuals seek health care. Furthermore, documented immigrants may avoid attending health centers out of fear that their use of public benefits may hurt their abilities to naturalize or to sponsor a noncitizen for a visa.

Immigration Enforcement and Check-Ins

While immigration law enforcement continues daily enforcement operations and makes criminal and civil arrests, ICE will not conduct operations at medical facilities, except under extraordinary circumstances. In a recently released notice, ICE has said that it will continue to prioritize apprehending individuals who threaten national security and public safety, but is centrally committed to the health of its employees and general public. ICE policy has directed DHS officers to avoid making arrests at sensitive locations like health care facilities without prior approval for an exemption. Additionally, individuals with a scheduled check-in must contact their local ICE office for further guidance.

Detentions

As of March 13, 2020, there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at any ICE detention facilities, according to an official notice from ICE. ICE has instituted screening guidance for new detainees to identify those who meet CDC’s criteria for risk of exposure to COVID-19. Detainees with a fever or respiratory symptoms are isolated and observed for a specified period of time. Additionally, detainees without fever or respiratory symptoms who meet epidemiologic risk criteria are monitored for 14 days. All asymptomatic detainees in isolation can attend medical appointments, while symptomatic detainees in isolation must wear masks to attend medical appointments. The detainee’s medical provider is notified of the detainee’s status.

Personal visitation at detention centers has been temporarily curtailed. ICE will facilitate communication with families, in the absence of visitation, through extended telephone access or other reasonable means.

To note: ICE only detains individuals for immigration purposes, and cannot legally hold a detainee who has an ordered release by a judge. Local public health agencies are notified when an individual who is ill or who was in isolated detention is released.

Removals

The ICE Air flight medical provider conducts visual screenings that reflect ICE policy and procedures on new apprehensions lacking medical summary information who are delivered to the aircraft. Detainees who are not “new apprehensions” are delivered to the aircraft only with medical clearance. Detainees who do not pass screening and/or are suspected of having a health-risk condition that may be contagious are denied boarding and are referred instead to a facility for screening.

Indirect Consequences
Measures taken by the U.S. government in response to the COVID-19 may have unintended effects on migration and human movement. Ramped up screening may not deter travel from outbreak zones, but may incentivize travelers to evade detection if possible by masking symptoms or lying about travel history. Dangerously, this will impact national public health and safety.

The Migration Policy Institute articulates a concern that perhaps these travel bans, which often are symbolic responses, give false hope and foster a “nation-first” attitude that undermine the necessity to create an international solution. Blanket travel bans, such as those proclaimed by the Trump Administration to impede reception of individuals from China, Iran, the EU, the U.K., and Ireland, may prevent much-needed healthcare workers and supplies from entering the United States, which may also negatively impact public health and security.

 

 

 

 

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.

TN Visa | Immigration Law Group, LLC

Staying Informed on the New H-1B Immigration Cap Registration System

Immigration law is complicated. No one knows this better than Elliot M.S Yi and his team of immigration attorneys at Immigration Law Group. When you’re applying for a work visa, it can seem as though the rules are constantly changing, and they only get more complicated if you want to bring your family with you. No matter how much education or skill you bring to your job, navigating the complicated world of immigration law is no easy task.

Whether you’re looking to apply for an H-1B visa on your own or you’re an employer here in the state of Oregon looking to petition for qualified workers to achieve legal status, Immigration Law Group can help make your American Dream a reality.

What is an H-1B Visa and So I Qualify for One?

The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa which allows foreign workers to apply to come work in the United States for up to three years but may be extended to six years in specialty occupations. In order to qualify for an H-1B visa an applicant must meet the following criteria.
  • Education – In order to qualify for an H-1B visa an applicant must have a Bachelor’s degree or higher, or an equivalent degree.
  • Degree Requirement – The degree requirement within the industry for the job must be so unique, or the job so complex, that only someone holding the degree could perform the job duties and responsibilities.
  • Employer Requirement – The Employer must normally require someone with that degree or its equivalent for the position.
  • Specific Duties – The nature of the specific duties of job are so specific that it usually requires educational training associated with your degree.
Although an H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa it is often used as a stepping stone towards citizenship and is recognized as a dual intent visa. Many immigrants who possess an H-1B visa apply and obtain a Green Card while working in the United States and the H-1B visa also allows for an applicant to apply to bring their spouse and children under the age of 21 with them

What is the New Cap Registration System for H-1B Visas?

As of March 1, 2020, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that there will be a new cap registration system for H-1B visas. The new cap system for H-1B immigration allows for a total of 85,000 new H-1B visas each fiscal year, 65,000 of those being new visas for immigrants with a bachelor’s degree while 20,000 will be available for specialty workers with advanced degrees but requires employers to register in advance if they wish to petition for an immigrant through the system.

Under the new system, registration will open for petitions from employers on March 1st and close on March 20th with employers being notified by March 31st if the potential employee they registered was selected, giving the employer 90 days to file their petition. There will be a 10$ registration fee for each applicant a company wishes to register however there is no limit to the number of registrations a US employer may submit.

How Does This Impact Current and Potential Immigrants?

One of the fears of this new system is that larger companies will not be limited by the 10$ registration fee and will therefore submit numerous registrations, drowning out smaller companies and making the elusive H-1B visa even harder to come by, increasing the lottery feel of the system for anyone without a large corporation behind them.

It is also unclear as of this time what will happen to applicants petitioning for a “Master’s Exemption” who do not meet the full requirements at the March deadline but will by the time the H-1B visa is processed.

Why Call Immigration Law Group?

As an employer, you want the best people to work for your company and sometimes those people are located outside of the United States. Petitioning the government to bring over a worker shouldn’t be this much of a headache. Immigration law is complicated and ever changing, it can be hard to keep up.

Call Immigration Law Group today and help make a murky and confusing process simpler for you and your future employees. Let us help make the American Dream a reachable goal for everyone.
To learn more about immigration services in Portland Oregon, contact out offices located on 650 NE Holladay St, Suite 1600 Portland, OR 97232. Message us online or call (866) 691-9894
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.

Temporary Protected Status

The Temporary Protected Status (TPS) has been a lifeline to thousands of people that are living in the United States. It protects these individuals from being subjected to dangerous conditions from their home country like disease, starvation, violence, and other threatening conditions. However, TPS regulations are continually changing. Now more than ever, it is critical to have a knowledgeable team that can help guide you through these specific adjustments.

Immigration Law Group can guide you through your Visa issues, Green Card questions, and discuss any policy changes. TPS is a critical designation for many, and it is imperative to understand the requirements of this status, as well as the updates to this specific policy. With Immigration Law Group, you can stay up to date with this ever-changing immigration climate, and understand how you may be affected by it.

What Is Temporary Protected Status (TPS)?

Through the Immigration Act of 1990, Congress created the Temporary Protected Status (TPS). It is a temporary immigration status that would be provided to the nationals of specific countries that are confronting extraordinary or temporary conditions, environmental disasters, or ongoing armed conflicts. These particular issues make it unsafe for the nationals to be deported back to their home country. As a result, the TPS designation provides these nationals with a work permit and a stay of deportation.

To qualify for this TPS designation, individuals need to meet the following criteria:

  • Must be a national of a country that has a TPS designation;
  • Be continuously and physically present in the United States since the specific date of appointment;
  • Must have resided in the United States, consistently, since the specified period indicated by the Secretary of Homeland Security; AND
  • Not be barred from asylum for national security or criminal related reasons. (i.e., convicted of a felony or two or more misdemeanors.) or inadmissible to the United States.

TPS Updates and How They Affect Individuals With Final Removal Proceedings

Recently, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has updated its USCIS Policy Memo to reflect the effects of individuals in the TPS designation who travel outside of the United States and have final removal orders. This recent update indicates that these individuals who travel abroad temporarily, with proper prior authorization, will be able to return to the United States. They will retain the same immigration status they had before they departed the United States. This change is a stark difference to past regulations. Previously, individuals in the TPS designation with final removal proceedings who left the country would result in the execution of their outstanding removal order.

How Does TPS Affect the Country?

Most TPS individuals have been in the United States for decades. Starting families here and becoming deeply integrated into their towns and their cities. These individuals not only contribute significantly to the overall U.S. economy, but they provide financial and emotional support to their families and friends. They also provide vital assistance to schools in their area, civic organizations, and even their churches. Many of these individuals work as caregivers, or professions that are crucial to the overall health of not only their specific communities but the country as a whole.

About 88.5% of TPS beneficiaries are in the labor force. This is a significant statistic that would cause a devastating economic and social impact across the country if the TPS program was ever terminated. Ending this program would create substantial GDP losses that would be staggering for the country to process. TPS recipients are a significant stabilizing factor for the United States. They also allow the promotion of regional security to their own home country as well.

Why Call the Immigration Law Group?

With Immigration Law Group, you will have a dedicated staff that will work tirelessly on your immigration case. We understand how critical each Visa application is and how important it is to stay ahead of new immigration policies. We know the effects these regulations have on not only your specific case but your life and livelihood as well. Don’t wait any longer; contact us today to schedule a meeting to discuss your situation or to have us answer any immigration questions you may have.

National Defense Authorization Act

The 2020 National Defense Authorization Act provides several new provisions that impact many national science and technology policies, the Defense Department’s research security efforts, and several immigration-related measures. Immigration Law Group consists of top-rated Immigration lawyers who understand the effects of these immigration policy changes. We know how imperative it is to have a dedicated and knowledgeable team working for you. Our staff will not only walk you through these new immigration policy updates but provide your case with the attention and care that it deserves.

What is the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act?

The 2020 National Defense Authorization Act authorizes specific 2020 appropriations and puts into place certain policies for the Department of Defense activities and programs. The bill also includes many immigration-related provisions that affect Liberian nationals, the Afghan special immigrant visa programs, the parole in place for individual service members, and specific protections of the DACA and TPS service members.

Essential Immigration Changes That Come With the Act

The National Defense Authorization Act is the primary way for Congress to execute its Constitutional duties. Specifically, support and raise the Armies, maintain and provide for its Navy while making rules for the government and specific regulations for the land and naval forces. In addition, to the numerous provisions to expand on these primary goals, there have been specific immigration policies that have also been amended.

  • Liberian Nationals:

Under this act, Liberians can adjust their status if they have been in the United States since November 20, 2014. Once these individuals obtain their LPR status, they can apply for citizenship without having to wait for an additional period of time. This act will allow individuals to apply one year after enactment.

  • Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Program:

Under this act, the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Program will add 4,000 additional visas. It will affect the Afghan interpreters, translators, and other support staff who had worked with the U.S. military in Afghanistan. However, with the addition of these visas, it will also require reporting and evaluations to be done by the Department of State Inspector General about this program for the Iraqi and the Afghan allies.

  • Parole In Place:

This bill provides authorization according to INA Section 212(d)(5) to exercise parole in place on a case-by-case basis for individual service members and their families. This bill will protect those undocumented family members of veterans and active-duty military from deportation. It will confirm how vital the parole in place is, specifically in furthering the family unity and the stability for military families.

  • DACA and TPS Service Members

This bill will protect the recipients of DACA and TPS service members from being involuntarily separated from the Armed Forces.

How Will the Act Affect the Country?

The 2020 National Defense Authorization Act will ensure that individuals of the Armed Forces have the resources they need to protect the United States’ interests globally by enhancing America’s national security while also caring for the troops and their families. In addition, this bill will have a significant impact on immigration by increasing the number of special immigrant visas available to Afghans. It will also protecting those undocumented military family members from deportation, which the Trump administration had considered ending. Unfortunately, the bill did not address the desired language that immigration advocates had wanted. Specifically, language that restricted the transfer of military personnel and resources for the border wall or the immigration detention on the military bases. Time will tell how this will affect the country.

Why Call the Immigration Law Group?

With the constant changes in immigration law, it is important to hire an immigration team that has the experience, knowledge, and dedication to handle your immigration matters. With Immigration Law Group, we will provide you with an experienced team that will take on any immigration challenge you may have. Contact our office today for more information or to set up an appointment.

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!