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Blandon Law Immigration

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Visa Bulletin and Priority Dates

     The spouse, parent and children (under 21 years of age) of a U.S. citizen are known as immediate relatives. They can apply for residency at the same time that the U.S. citizen sponsors them.  Family-sponsored foreign nationals who are not immediate relatives must wait until the "priority date" becomes current.  This means that the family member must first petition the foreign nationals and then, when the date of that petition is "current" on the Visa Bulletin, the foreign nationals may apply for residency.
     The Visa Bulletin changes monthly.  A petition filed five years ago will not necessarily take five years for the priority date to become current.  Recently, the CIS Ombudsman reported that during 2009 and part of 2010, usage of family-based visas has been exceptionally low, especially among spouses and children of green card holders (F-2A preference category). A significant number of family-based visas may go unused in FY 2010. 
     Therefore, priority dates in this category will be processed much faster than in other years.  For legal advice on your case, please schedule a consultation.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Good News

     Life is good.  It really is.
     I wanted to share a few happy stories from Blandon Law today.  The first is that a foreign national spouse was recently approved for legal permanent residency based on her marriage to a U.S. citizen.  That's what usually happens to our spouse sponsor cases -- they are approved.  What makes this approval particularly special is that the client was approved without having to undergo an interview with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.  The Firm prepared her paperwork so well that CIS is mailing the green card to her directly.  It should arrive within a month.
     Another bright spot is that word is getting out about immigration benefits available to children.  Parents and guardians should see an immigration attorney about benefits for their children as soon as possible.  Click here for an article about children, written by this attorney and published this month in Flair magazine.  It is at page 42.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Detention and Enforcement Tougher in Next 4 Years

     Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the enforcement division of the Department of Homeland Security, the agency which provides immigration benefits through the Citizenship and Immigration Services.  ICE just released its strategic plan for the next four years.  See the full news release here.   
     ICE's plan is to obtain tougher laws within the next several years to that they can increase enforcement against illegal employment.  They also intend to invest more of their resources to remove foreign nationals who enter the United States with a nonimmigrant visa, but then overstay the visit.  Finally, they would like to solicit proposals and develop at least four regional detention facilities.  This is so they will have a place to keep those foreign nationals they intend to detain.
    This strategic plan is a clear message to foreign nationals:  get your immigration status in order now before the penalties toughen up.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Immigration to Increase Fees

     The Citizenship and Immigration Service will increase the fees for applications and benefits shortly.  Although it is only a proposal at this time -- click here to read more -- such "proposals" seldom fail to become realities.
    The price to apply for a green card — given to foreigners to live and work in the U.S. permanently — would go from $930 to $985. The cost to replace a lost green card would go from $290 to $365. And an application to become a temporary resident would rise $420 to $1,130.
     Fortunately, the fee to become a U.S. citizen may not increase.  It is currently $595.  The right to become a citizen was given special consideration by the Citizenship and Immigration Service.
     In 2007, when the naturalization fees increased the last time, the number of filed applications increased dramatically just before the increase went into effect.  Since then, however, in part due to the poor economy and the higher fees, the number of filed naturalization applications has declined.  See New York Times story on this issue here.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Gender Change in Passports and Birth Certificates

     Beginning June 10, when a passport applicant presents a certification from an attending medical physician that the applicant has undergone appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition, the United States passport will reflect the new gender. 
     Sexual reassignment surgery is no longer a prerequisite for passport issuance. A Consular Report of Birth Abroad can also be amended with the new gender.    
     Passport issuing officers at embassies and consulates abroad and domestic passport agencies and centers will only ask appropriate questions to obtain information necessary to determine citizenship and identity.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Does Visa Waiver Prevent Residency based on Marriage?

     The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows foreign nationals from designated countries to enter the United States without applying for a visa.  Greece was recently designated, for example.  The full list of countries is available by clicking here.  VWP foreigners can visit this country for up to 90 days at a time.
     In exchange for this ease of travel, VWP foreigners waive several rights.  Among these are the right to a full removal proceeding before an Immigration Judge, with the exception of applying for asylum.
     Of course, humans being human, sometimes VWP foreigners fall in love, decide to marry, and wonder how they can remain here legally. 
     Foreign nationals who wish to become legal permanent residents while remaining in the U.S. must undergo the adjustment of status process with the Citizenship and Immigration Service.  Marriage-based adjustment is only available to VWP foreigners if they are petitioned by U.S. citizen spouses, parents or sons or daughters (over 21 years of age).  However, because VWP foreigners give up the right to Immigration Court, they risk removal if the adjustment of status application is denied.  Removal results in a 10 year penalty during which time the foreigners cannot return to the U.S., even if married to a citizen.
     Consular processing with the Dept. of State may be a better option for VWP foreigners in some situations.  To obtain legal advice in your case, call and schedule a consultation.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Taxi Service or Subway Value?

     Yesterday, I represented a client in New York City. The taxi and subway reminded me of the two ways foreign nationals can obtain immigration benefits: the service of an attorney or the value of filing applications on their own.
     A taxi driver takes clients to their destination as quickly as possible, answering questions along the way, and pointing out options of places they might wish to explore. Likewise, an immigration attorney finalizes the applications and supporting documents, answers foreign nationals' questions during the process, and explains ancillary benefits (such as employment authorization, travel permits and family members' benefits).
     On the other hand, a subway is a better value than a taxi. Unfortunately, a subway takes much longer to get to the destination. In addition, when riders are lost, they rely on strangers for information -- or misinformation. Worse, riders go towards a specific destination without knowledge of other options available to them.  Not to mention the rat that might be found along the way.
      When foreign nationals consider filing a case on their own as a way to save money, I am reminded of the subway system. Their immigration benefits may be delayed, the information obtained from strangers may be inapplicable (or simply wrong) and ancillary benefits may be overlooked.
     Sometimes, foreign nationals who try to file on their own also find an unscrupulous notary or "immigration consultant" along the way.

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