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Blandon Law Immigration

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Spouses of Cubans

     The spouse of a Cuban national can become a legal permanent resident on account of that marriage.  It is a different law than the one that applies to spouses of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents.
     In other ways obtaining residency under the Cuban Adjustment Act is different that for other foreign spouses.  The most notable are the following:
     -- a foreign battered spouse or child of the Cuban does not need to live with the Cuban,
     -- a foreign battered spouse of the Cuban may self-petition for two years after the marriage ends, and
     -- if a Cuban spouse dies, the foreign spouse may self-petition so long as the couple lived together.
  Viva Cuba Libre.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Deportation, Not Citizenship

     You remember that kid in Little League that never changed his batting stance no matter how many strikes?  One, two, three, out.  One, two, three, out.  Game after game.  Some foreigners are like that.  I recently met with a man who was arrested when he was very young for a crime he may not (or may) have committed.  Doesn't matter.  He did not hire an attorney and was convicted.  Years later he became a legal permanent resident.
     Feeling all is well, he travelled abroad and when he returned Immigration interrogated him for a lengthy period of time at the airport.  Despite this, after Immigration let him go, he did not hire an immigration attorney to sort out the issues.  Sadly, many foreigners incorrectly believe that if they have lived in the U.S. for many years after a conviction -- and have travelled abroad -- they are in some kind of safe harbor.
     Then, he applied for naturalization.  After living in the U.S. over 15 years, he is denied.  And placed in deportation proceedings.  Strike three.
     I'm glad to say he has now hired an attorney.  Change is good.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Balloon Lifts

     Law school professors say that at some point, the fog lifts and the student understands the purpose of the studies, the reason of law.  In my efforts, I am glad to report that the entire hot air balloon lifted when I learned about federal court review of immigration cases.
     The regulations pertaining to immigration law that must be memorized do not exist for the sake of bureaucracy.  These rules codify justice as that concept is applied to foreign nationals.  When an agency does not follow its own regulations, foreign nationals have the RIGHT to sue in federal court through various proceedings.  The names of these proceedings include writs, petitions for review and habeas corpus.
     Knowing that foreigners have inalienable rights places the study of regulations in a whole new light.  Each time the Citizenship and Immigration Service issues a decision which departs from precedent or that is based on impermissible factors, there exists at least one foreign national (or a whole family of foreign nationals) who can achieve his or her goals only if an immigration specialist recognizes the rule that has been broken, the injustice that must be remedied.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Two Mistakes: Being Young and In Love

     Foreigners hire immigration professionals so that person can advise as to the most effective route for receiving the benefit wanted. For example, in a case where a foreign national marries a U.S. citizen, the benefit can be legal permanent residency. Unfortunately, I sometimes see young men and women who believe they know best. They think that because they are in love, Immigration will approve the case automatically and without any problems. Sadly, this is not the case.  
     Immigration does not always conduct investigations to determine whether neighbors, family members, and friends know that the couple lives together. Instead, Immigration relies on documents produced by the couple at an interview. For this reason, my office requires couples to bring original documents which we then prepare in a manner which makes it easy for the Immigration Officer to review the evidence and approve the case. No amount of handholding or nose rubbing in front of the Officer is going to take the place of strong evidence of a bona fide relationship.
      If the case is denied by the Immigration Officer, the foreign national may be ordered removed. In other words, he or she will be placed in proceedings before an Immigration Judge. The foreign national will once again have to try to prove that the marriage is a real one. Again, the foreigner will have to pay attorney fees. With hope, the second time the foreigner will follow the advice of the attorney.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Legalizing children

     As if my last blog about parents discussing their children's status with an immigration attorney had been a call to action, today I met with a woman who was ordered removed by an Immigration Judge in 2005.  To her surprise, her (now 17-year-old) daughter was not ordered deported with her.  Because the child has accrued no unlawful presence, she can leave the U.S. before her 18th birthday and return legally.
     Normally, having a mother who was ordered deported would be a sure-fire way to get a visa denied.  However, the child is a Greek citizen by virtue of her father and her grandfather.  Although Greece is a member of the European Union, its citizens do not yet enjoy the privilege of visa waiver (entering the U.S. for 90 days without requesting a visa).  This may change as early as this year (click here for information from the Dept. of State).
     I just love it when a dream is turned into a reality.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

I Came to the U.S. for my Child, but now ...

     "Isn't there something you can do for my child?"  I hear the heartbreaking question too often and -- in some cases -- too late.  Foreigners who say they came to the United States many years ago, when their children were infants, and overstayed their period of authorized presence.  Perhaps they entered as tourists or professionals for a few months or a few years ... and never returned home. 
     But now the children are teenagers.  And the teenagers cannot obtain a driver's license in most states.  Despite excellent grades and scholarship offers, they cannot attend college.  If they remain in the U.S. after their 18th birthday, those children also begin to accrue unlawful presence and all the consequences that carries. 
      The solution:  Parents must CALL NOW to try and fix their legal status.  This is like planning to retire.  Don't plan on winning the lottery; save now.  You know the day will come when these children will become adults.  Don't plan on an amnesty law such as the DREAM Act (for more information click here).  For your sake and your children's sake, see an immigration attorney before legalization options run out and application deadlines pass.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

How does my foreign spouse/fiance answer questions at the consulate?

     Preparing couples for interviews is just one of the many services the Firm offers.  When a US citizen or legal permanent resident petitions a foreign fiance(e) or spouse, that person will have to appear before a consular officer before s/he is granted a visa.  These are a few tips to make that interview go more smoothly:

1.  Be truthful.  It's fine to say "I don't know" or "I don't remember" in response to a question.  However, since the case has been going on for some time and the questions will generally be about the relationship, the foreigner should know.

2.  The foreigner must be ready to talk about relationship.  The interview is not the time to be shy about the details.  A shy foreigner will be misunderstood as someone who was not involved in a real relationship.

3.  The foreigner must know the USC spouse/fiancee. S/he should know the petitioner's job, height, details on children from a prior marriage, problems with petitioner's ex-spouse, addresses where s/he lived.

4.  The foreigner must also know any “bad” issues about the future spouse, such as arrests.  After all, the consular officer will know about this.

5.  The foreigner must know the particularities of the post.  The attorney will tell the couple what is unusual about the consulate.  For example, Bogota is known as high–fraud post and couples can never be overly prepared for an interview there.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Athletes, athletes. Ra, ra, ra!

     In honor of the Super Bowl, today I am blogging about how foreign athletes can enter the United States. (Yes, there are foreign-born football players: click here.)  The visa available -- which determines how long the athlete can stay -- depends on the level of ability as well as the purpose for coming to this country.  At the most basic level, a foreigner can enter with a visitor's visa (B-1/B-2).  This includes professional golfers or race car driver's who receive no salary, only tournament money. 
     Athletes who are internationally recognized or perform as members of a group that are internationally recognized enter with a P-1 visa.  The athlete can be an amateur, so long as the team is acclaimed.  In fact, minor league athletes can also qualify if they meet certain rules.  For example, participation renders the foreigner ineligible for U.S. scholarships under NCAA rules.
     Foreigners who want to stay for a period of up to three years and have outstanding abilities in their field can enter with an O-1 visa. Fortunately, if the employer continues to need the foreigner, there is no time limit.  An O-1 can keep obtaining extensions.  Of course, most persons will wish to apply for legal permanent residency and later citizenship.
     The requirements for residency are different than those for a temporary stay -- both for the employer and for the athlete.  An immigration professional must be consulted for that benefit.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Why I Do It

     Immigration law can be completely stressful.  After all, I am paid to handle problems other people cannot (or do not wish to) handle themselves.  Sometimes, I am asked why I chose this field at all.  As a child, I dreamt of many jobs -- astronaut, veterinarian, engineer, and foreign journalist.  As I grew, none of these professions fit perfectly.  I don't like blood or math, for example.  Then, when I became an attorney, I worked in other areas before launching into immigration -- litigation, insurance defense, and employment law among others.  Also, like someone else's shirt, it did not fit me.  In short, I did not love that work.
     I am an immigration attorney because I believe that hard-working, honest people will improve the United States as a country.  Diversity strengthens a garden and a group of people.  Moreover, as a parent, I GET that everyone wants the best for his or her children at a profound, instinctual level.  I have worked on too many cases where the difference in the future of my clients' children was literally college or squalor.
     Is it worth the long hours of research in front of a computer?  Is it worth fighting for clients before the occasional harsh judge and unfeeling Immigration officer?  Is it worth being creative with strategies on visas and residency cases?  Is it worth dealing with the occasional ungrateful client?
     Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.  By the way, yes.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Controlled Substance Convictions Require 2 Attorneys Working Together

     The immigration consequences of controlled substance offenses can be various and violent: ineligibility to enter the U.S., ineligibility to become a legal permanent resident, inability to become a citizen, deportation and possible mandatory detention. Therefore, for each arrest, a foreign national will want to work closely with both an immigration attorney and a criminal defense attorney.

     A foreign national, even a legal permanent resident who has spent most of her life in the United States, is considered "applying for admission" when she arrives in the United States from abroad. Likewise a foreigner who lives in the U.S. and is applying for adjustment of status is also considered applying for admission. At the moment of admission, it does NOT matter whether the foreigner was CONVICTED of a controlled substance offense. Residency – and permission to enter – can be denied if the foreigner admits the elements of the offense.
     When Immigration is trying to deport a foreigner, a conviction is required. The immigration and criminal defense professionals will try to fashion the plea agreement so that the foreigner is not considered “convicted” under the immigration laws. If the foreigner was already sentenced and convicted (as that term is defined in immigration laws), the criminal defense attorney may work on post-conviction relief, such as trying to vacate the sentence.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Trainees and Interns

     Many companies have placed freezes on hiring, prompting managers and executives to wonder whether there is any way that the skills of foreign nationals can be put to good use.  Fortunately, foreign nationals can obtain work experience at companies as either trainees or interns.  Trainees have experience in their field.  Interns are in the process of obtaining a degree or obtained it less than 12 months before the internship program starts.  In short, interns are learning while trainees are improving on what they know.
     There are basically two types of visas available to trainees:  J and H3.  The latter requires no knowledge of English.  The idea is that the information gained will be used by the foreigner abroad when s/he returns home.  The company also petitions the trainee directly.  By contrast, a company wishing to sponsor a J trainee must qualify through a sponsorship program (the American Immigration Lawyers Association has a great one for companies with at least 10 employees).  J1 trainees must have a working knowledge of English, a foreign degree and at least one year of full-time work experience in the field or at least 5 years of work experience.  The occupational categories for J1 trainees are limited to particular fields.
     Of course, other visa classifications may be even better options depending on the particular facts of the company and the foreign national.  That's why it is best to deal with an immigration professional on these matters.

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