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.

 

 

 

 

Since the 1940s, the U.S. agricultural industry has heavily relied on the undocumented immigrant labor force to support its needs. However, in 2008, after significant expenditures to increase border security, there was a massive slowdown of these farm workers coming into the country. As a result, the agricultural industry was left in severe need of workers and replacements for their aging workforce. Since then, Congress has been continually trying to decide how to fix these labor shortages, while also tackling the issue of undocumented workers. This continuous back and forth on different legislations and immigration reforms has left immigrants with a lot of questions and worries about how these changes will impact them and their legal status. The Immigration Law Group understands these concerns and makes it a goal to provide its clients with the attention and legal expertise that they deserve. These Portland-based Attorneys are a diverse group of lawyers that have helped thousands of immigrants obtain their specific Visas and Green Cards while providing each client with the knowledge they need to feel confident about their case. With the recent news that the House has passed the Bipartisan Immigration Bill, many individuals may question how this bill may impact them? To fully understand what this bill entails, continue to read below or contact our dedicated staff at Immigration Law Group for further information.

The Bipartisan Immigration Bill and its Impact

The Bipartisan Immigration Bill:

Over the years, several legislative efforts that were geared to legalizing additional undocumented immigrants have failed. However, this new Bipartisan Immigration Bill is significant in not only its overall purpose but the Republican support that it has received. Even though the bill will still need to face the Senate’s vote, its hope of creating a pathway to citizenship for those undocumented immigrants that are working in the agriculture industry has got the attention of many waiting for a positive outcome.

How it Impacts the Agricultural Industry:

The Pew Research Center has indicated that in 2016, almost 15% of the workers in the agriculture industry were without legal status. This figure is a significant number that Congress has been trying to tackle. With this new bill, Congress hopes that the reforms that are introduced in it, have the potential of bringing substantial changes to an agriculture sector that has relied on undocumented immigrants for a long time. If this bill passes, it could ultimately legalize up to 325,000 unauthorized immigrants who are currently working in the agriculture business while also bring in the following changes:

  • The law would allow farmworkers who have worked in the agriculture business for at least 180 days over the last two years the ability to apply for the “Certified Agricultural Worker” status. This status would also provide long-term farmworkers a path to get their Green Card.
  • This bill would streamline the application process for the temporary visa program for seasonal agricultural workers: H-2A.
  • This bill would also create a new program for year-round agricultural industries, which in the past have been barred from participating in the H-2A program.
  • This bill would also tighten up the enforcement in the agricultural industry by requiring that farm employer participate in the E-Verify program while also freezing the minimum wage set by the government for one year. Followed by cap increases at 3.25% for the following nine years.

How This Bill Affects The Country?

If passed, this bill has the possibility of providing countless benefits to not only the immigrants that are currently in the U.S. without legal status but also aiding an agriculture business that is facing a severe labor shortage. This bill is the first step into fixing a system that has been broken for an extended period of time. One that has left the agriculture industry in critical need of workers and has created a vast black market of undocumented farmworkers that has resulted in continuous immigration raids and a lot of uncertainty for employers. Legalizing this bill is a massive step into not helping thousands of immigrants in our country, but also providing our country with a way to improve our agriculture business while moving forward with a legal workforce.

Why Call the Immigration Law Group

Understanding all these legal immigration changes can be critical in ensuring that individuals are maintaining their legal status while also providing them with the knowledge to understand all of their immigration options. At Immigration Law Group, it is our objective to help you stay up to date with all the immigration reforms while providing you with the assistance that you need in your case. Whether you have an immigration question that needs answering or would like to discuss your individual issue, contact us today to set up an appointment and see how we can help you.

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.

Portland Immigration Lawyer

The cost for becoming a United States Citizen might become 83 percent more expensive. The Trump Administration is attempting to raise the application fees from citizenship to legal permanent residency.

Last Thursday, USCIS announced the proposed price hikes, in their statement “current fees do not recover the full costs of providing adjudication and naturalization services.”  The citizenship application fee is currently 640 dollars, the proposed price hike would make the fee 1,170 dollars. The legal permanent residency fee is currently 1,220 and USCIS is attempting to raise it to 2,195.

The proposed price hikes would have a major affect on immigration. There are also price hikes for Asylum, Temporary Protected Status Beneficiaries, and DACA recipients. DACA renewals would go from 495 dollars to 765 dollars. The administration is also seeking to transfer $207.6 million of USCIS funding and divert it to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Advocacy groups are pressing people who are eligible to apply as soon as possible. USCIS and the Trump Administration must place the proposed price hikes in a comment period, the period ends on December 16th.

These price hikes have very little blocking their way to becoming a reality. Congress is really the only option to prevent the price hikes from becoming implemented.

The time to apply for your green card or citizenship application is now!  Don’t wait until the fees increase a substantial amount more than they already are.  Feel free to contact us with any questions.

On Saturday, Federal District Court Judge from Portland, Oregon, ruled against the Trump Administration’s attempt to curb legal immigration. The proposed policy would require immigrants to prove they have the financial resources to obtain health insurance if approved for a Visa.

 

Judge Simon issued a nationwide temporary restraining order that prevents the United States Government and the Trump Administration from carrying out this new policy. The Policy was planned to go into effect on November 3rd.

 

According to New York Times Reporter Aimee Ortiz “Mr. Trump’s Oct. 4 proclamation ordered consular officers to bar immigrants who could not prove they had health insurance or the ability to pay for medical costs once they become permanent residents of the United States. The president had justified the policy on the grounds that immigrants were more likely to be uninsured, and that costs associated with this care are passed on to the American people in the form of higher taxes, higher premiums, and higher fees for medical services.”

 

This policy, along with other Immigration based policy changes the Trump Administration has tried to roll out has been constantly stopped by Judges before it reaches the implementation stage.

 

Ortiz reports “Lawyers from Justice Action Center, Innovation Law Lab and the American Immigration Lawyers Association argued that the policy was “plainly illegal” and that it would cause immediate and irreparable harm.“This new requirement rewrites our immigration and health care laws,” the lawyers wrote in a motion seeking a temporary restraining order. They noted that the policy could effectively bar up to 375,000 “otherwise qualified immigrants each year.””

 

The Justice Action Center also stated “We’re glad that the court understands the importance of preventing the health care ban from taking effect tonight, but this is just the first step, Esther Sung, a senior litigator at the Justice Action Center, said on Saturday. The impact of this ban is just huge. Hundreds of thousands of people would be affected,” she said. “Two out of three intending immigrants every year might not be able to join their families. It’s outrageous that the Trump administration is trying to slip this by people without them noticing.”

 

The Supreme Court will be taking on a number of major cases that will have major implications. They will be hearing cases that deal with LGBTQ, guns and DACA.

There are currently 800,000 young immigrants within the DACA system. Their fate is in the hands of nine justices. The Supreme Court will be deciding on the 2017 decision made by President Trump to end the DACA program, they will be evaluating the legality of the decision.

DACA was a program created by President Obama in 2012 using his Executive Authority. The program allows undocumented immigrants who do not have a criminal record and who are attending school, to pay a fee and register with the United States Government. They would be allowed to receive a temporary waiver to be allowed to work and live without fear of deportation. DACA recipients are required to renew their status every two years. 

President Trump claims he can end the program via Executive Decision purely because the program was created by Executive Order.

Immigration public charge Update on Visa Applicants Portland, Oregon

The Public Charge Rule is set to go into affect on October 15th. The new policy has received many challenges, both in court and with Immigration advocates. Critics of the new rule have claimed “The new rule — which critics say makes the definition of “public charge” so vague and all-encompassing that it will effectively favor only rich, white immigrants — drew swift rebuke from dozens of state and local governments, attorneys general, public health organizations and immigrant advocacy groups after U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services formally announced the policy in September.”

The USCIS has refused to comment on the on-going legal battle between the courts and the Trump administration. Washington Post writer Abigale Hauslohner reports  “Is expected to decide next week on whether to block the rule from taking effect.”

Another Federal Judge in Olympia, Washington is going to hold a separate hearing on the same piece of policy. The lawsuit was filed by a coalition of 13 different states. Judges in New York, Maryland and Illinois will also be making decisions on this policy.

If the policy goes into effect, according to Hauslohner “the new public-charge rule, immigrants who are in the United States legally and use public benefits such as Medicaid, food stamps or housing assistance — or have at one time used public benefits, or are deemed likely to someday use public benefits — could be considered “public charges,” rendering them ineligible for green cards.

The new criteria provide “positive” and “negative” factors for immigration officials to weigh as they decide on green-card applications. Negative factors include whether a person is unemployed, dropped out of high school or is not fluent in English.” Hauslohner also reports “Critics say the rule is likely to reduce legal immigration by slashing eligibility for family-based visas, the leading type of legal immigration to the United States, particularly from low-income countries in Africa and Latin America. They say it could also lead to more deportations as huge numbers of immigrants see their applications denied.”

Hauslohner states “The lawsuits argue that the new “public charge” definition deviates substantially from more than 100 years of legal interpretation. They say it will cause significant harm to the health and well-being of immigrant families, as well as the institutions that service them, by leading many to abstain from seeking public benefits that they or their children may need.”

Immigration News Update on Visa Applicants Portland, Oregon

The Trump administration will deny visas to immigrants who cannot prove they will have health insurance or the ability to pay for medical costs once they become permanent residents of the United States, the White House announced Friday in the latest move by President Trump to undermine legal immigration.

The proclamation has been in the works for many months according to New York Times Reporters Michael Shear and Miriam Jordan. The new policy will not affect refugees, asylum seekers or students seeking to attend college in the United States.

According to Shear and Jordan “ Once the policy is in place, people seeking those visas would be asked by consular officers to show how they intend to be covered by health insurance within 30 days of arriving in the United States. That could include proof that they will have health care through a job or will be covered under a relative’s insurance. If they cannot show that to the satisfaction of the consular office, their visa will be denied”

The recently announced policy has caused a stir, “Thousands of people annually would be denied green cards if the executive order takes effect” said Steve Yale-Loehr, an immigration scholar at Cornell Law School.

“Most people who are receiving green cards already have a job waiting or have a spouse that is employed,” Ms. Jamae said. “When you apply for a green card you already have to meet certain financial requirements.”

Other criticisms include “Most people who are receiving green cards already have a job waiting or have a spouse that is employed,” Ms. Jamae said. “When you apply for a green card you already have to meet certain financial requirements.”

Shear and Jordan also talked with, Doug Rand, a former White House official who worked on immigration in the Obama administration. Rand predicts that the president’s proclamation would be met by legal challenges.