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Both Los Angeles and Palm Springs are popular destinations for visitors from all over the world.  Some visitors, from certain trusted countries, are allowed to visit the USA without a B-1/B-2 Visitor Visa.  At both our Pasadena and Palm Springs offices, we’ve gotten quite a few calls about a change that went into effect today.

Beginning 1 April 2016, citizens from Visa Waiver Program countries who wish to visit the USA without a visa must travel using an e-passport, a passport issued by the country of nationality that meets certain security standards.  An e-passport still looks like what you would expect a passport to be.  However, an e-passport is machine readable and has an RFID chip embedded into it, with digital information about the passport holder.  There are many fraud-resistent features built into these passports, such as images that change color and symbols that show up only under UV light.  To know if a passport is an e-passport, look on the front or back cover for the symbol shown on the graphic at the top of this little blog.

If you are a citizen of a Visa Waiver-eligible country, but you do not have an e-passport, you must contact the US Embassy in your country to obtain a B-1/B-2 visitor visa.  Border guards may deny you entry if you do not have the proper passport and could send you back on the next plane.  Alternatively, you should contact the passport authority in your country to obtain a new passport.

In the past, F-1 foreign students graduating from universities would receive a one-year permit to work in the USA to develop and use their skills.  Here at the immigration law offices of Fong & Aquino we have had many inquiries from students here in Pasadena as well as the Palm Springs office, asking about the validity of those work permits.

A new rule goes into effect today to allow science, technology, engineering, and math (the so-called “STEM” majors) graduates of accredited universities in the fields of  to obtain a two-year extension on their work permits.

This rule helps the country attract and keep the brightest and best-educated students, so that they can stay and innovate in the USA.  –jcf

nextArrow.pngAfter the historic 2013 decision by the Supreme Court of the United States in US v. Windsor (570 US ___ ), many same-sex couples got married. This enabled a US citizen to petition successfully for a foreign spouse and for that spouse to get Legal Permanent Resident status, the so-called “green card.” Our offices in Hollywood, Pasadena, and Palm Springs has handled many, many of these cases, all successfully.

To ensure that green cards are not obtained through false marriages, the Immigration Marriage Fraud Act (IMFA) requires a couple to file Form I-751 Petition to Remove Condition on Residence if the couple was married for less than two years on the day the green card was granted.

green-card_frontonly-300x189.jpgIf you received your green card within the last two years based on marriage to a US citizen or green card holder, and if you wish check to see whether you are required to file the I-751, look at your green card. Under “Category,” if you see CR or CR-1 or CR-6 — if the two letters are CR, then you must file the I-751 before your green card expires. If you see CR-1 or CR-6 and your green card has already expired, seek legal assistance immediately.

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transgender.gif There has been a great deal of recent internet discussion about Bruce Jenner’s transition to a new identity as Caitlyn. I want to congratulate Caitlyn Jenner and address some questions about transgender people and immigration. There has been a small flood of calls today at both the Pasadena and Palm Springs offices of the immigration law offices of Fong & Aquino, in response to the Vanity Fair cover photo and article introducing Caitlyn.

In the bad old days, before Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States in the 2013 landmark case of US v Windsor, same-sex marriages were not recognized under Federal law. If two men wanted to marry — even if their marriage could be legally performed in, say, Canada or Massachusetts — the US government refused to recognize that marriage, and no Federal benefits would attach to that relationship. This included a US citizen wanting to obtain legal resident status (the so-called “green card”) for a foreign spouse. A same-sex couple was not recognized, and no green card was possible.

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Obama Immigration Policy Changes 2015

Obama immigration policy changes… what’s to come in 2015

In November 2014, the President announced a number of changes to immigration policies. With the Republican party in charge of both chambers of the U.S. Congress, there have been some rumblings about their plans to try to nullify the President’s actions. However, the administration is still moving forward with its plans.

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Republican Immigration Reform and a Giant Hershey Bar

What do Republicans have planned with regard to immigration reform?

Last week, Congressional Republicans held a bicameral retreat to discuss their plans for advancing their priorities, now that the party controls both the House of Representatives and the Senate. At the end of the retreat, there was no unified front on immigration.

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Drivers License for Undocumented Immigrants

Undocumented Immigrant Driver’s Licenses

What you should know

On January 1, 2015, California joined a handful of other states that issue driver’s licenses to undocumented individuals. Among the many goals that supporters of AB60 hope is that the requirement that undocumented individuals must pass the driver’s exams prior to the issuance of a license will result in safer roadways. Obtaining a license also helps undocumented immigrants avoid being cited for the dreaded California Vehicle Code § 12500 – Driving Without a License.

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Romben Aquino & J Fong - 1994

In my sophomore year at UCLA, one of my professors Stewart Kwoh assigned us a social services research project. I came to him with some vague ideas and he suggested that I go see his good friend J Craig Fong to develop them into something more concrete.

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Immigrant Medical Exam

The medical exam for immigration is a bit outdated

Toward the end of a recent immigration interview, the officer told my client that his doctor had forgotten to fill out certain sections of the medical examination form. As a result, my client would have to go back to the doctor and have the form redone. I mentioned to the officer that the medical exam was rather pointless.

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