July 6, 2015

Conditional / Temporary Residents MUST File to Remove Condition

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.

Under "Category," if you see IR-1 or IR-6, then you are not required to file the I-751.

Remember that if the I-751 is not filed on time, or if it is not accompanied with appropriate documents to demonstrate that the couple is living is a married life together, or if there has been a separation, divorce, or death, then USCIS may question or deny the case. Be sure to attach appropriate documentation to the I-751.

Recently, we have had lots of inquiries from Los Angeles and Riverside counties about removal of condition on residence, so if you would like to set up a time to chat about filing the documents, please feel free to contact us. --jcf

June 1, 2015

Marriage-based Green Cards and Transgendered Persons

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.

In the case of a relationship with a transgender person, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) took a simplistic, it's-just-about-plumbing approach. As long as one spouse had cosmetically male anatomy, and the other had cosmetically female anatomy, then the marriage would be recognized -- no matter how far along the transition might be -- and the marriage would result in a green card for the foreign spouse. This led to a number of unique cases in which a male-female couple would rush to get the green card, and after the green card was issued, the transgender spouse would feel free to finish the transition. Or waiting until the transition was complete, in order that the green card case could go forward. Many other, sometimes difficult, scenarios have played out in my 30+ years of legal service in the community.

Today, because Section 3 of DOMA is quite unconstitutional, these types of difficult situations are no longer necessary. A US citizen can today apply for a foreign spouse, whether that spouse is male or female; gay, lesbian, or straight; transgender or cisgender. Period.

As the anniversary of US v. Windsor comes at the end of June, let us remember where we have been and celebrate the progress that has been made for the community. If you should have questions regarding a getting a green card through marriage, please contact a competent immigration attorney to have your questions answered. --jcf

January 27, 2015

Obama Immigration Policy Changes 2015

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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January 20, 2015

Republican Immigration Reform and a Giant Hershey Bar

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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January 13, 2015

California Drivers License for Undocumented Immigrants

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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December 30, 2014

A New Era Begins... January 1st

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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December 23, 2014

Happy Holidays in Different Languages

Happy Holidays in Different Languages

Happy Holidays!

You can say “happy holidays” in many different languages.

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December 16, 2014

The Immigration Medical Exam

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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December 9, 2014

Benefits for Immigrants in California

Benefits for Immigrants - Covered California

Legal US immigrants have rights to benefits

If you are here legally, you may be missing out on benefits you are entitled to receive

Many legal immigrants (whether they are lawful permanent residents or naturalized U.S. citizens) do not apply for benefits for which they are eligible because they fear that they will tip off the authorities about any undocumented members of their families. However, one agency is working with community groups to ensure that people who apply for health insurance are reassured that their family members are safe.

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November 23, 2014

Immigrants Cheated by Notaries and "Immigration Advisors"

fingers crossed.jpegPresident Obama's executive order to provide relief to undocumented immigrants opens up a new opportunity for many who had no options. However, whenever the immigration laws change, it also creates a chance for unlicensed notaries public, unscrupulous "immigration advisors," and others who see an opportunity to cheat hard-working people. In my offices in Pasadena and Palm Springs, I hear stories all the time about how a notary charged a fortune and did nothing. Even more disturbing, people in the C oachella Valley seeking visa and immigration service and assistance have told me of persons who have provided harmful, incorrect information.

In many of these cases, the agency or advisor may be "accredited" by the Board of Immigration Appeals, but in fact, the consultant's lack of knowledge about immigration law is staggering. Several clients have come to me with cases that have been MADE WORSE.

We are all still learning all the details of Mr. Obama's presidential order and how it will be implemented. Please do not rush. Please do not allow desperation to push you to an unqualified person. Please do not be fooled by someone telling you that they can already handle your case; the program has not begun yet, so please do not rush to give your money to immigration service and assistance groups until you understand what the law will do. The program is so new, even we immigration attorneys are learning.

A good attorney will always take the time to explain to you what is being done and under what provision of the law.

If you have questions about your eligibility for any immigration benefit, please seek the assistance of a qualified immigration attorney. If you would like to set up an appointment for a free consultation with me, please contact me by phone or email. --jcf

November 21, 2014

Pres Obama Executive Order Protects Immigrant Families

Obama PrezOrder.jpegWith President Obama's announcement of executive action on immigration issues, the phone has been ringing constantly at both the Pasadena and Palm Springs offices. Fong & Aquino has fielded over 50 telephone inquiries this morning alone.

Although the President announced the executive action yesterday, immigration lawyers are still studying the EXACT requirements and details of the presidential order. It is a very complex, wide-ranging set of orders. I will be posting more information in the coming days.

This is a hopeful development, but it is new. DO NOT try to travel outside the USA at this time. CHECK WITH AN ATTORNEY before filing any papers with the immigration authorities. Remember that many unlicensed paralegals will try to encourage you to sign up with them: PLEASE BE CAREFUL. If you have any questions about your eligibility, or if you're interested in applying for a benefit under the executive order, please contact a competent immigration attorney.

Some highlights of the President's order:

(a) Work permits for certain highly-skilled workers and their spouses, as well as students studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

(b) Clarify and improve the ability to travel for those who are waiting for Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) status, including those who are here on Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

(c) Legal status for the spouses and children of US armed forces service members.

(d) Implement new priorities to deport or remove criminal immigrants, while minimizing deportation of non-criminal family members.

(e) Strengthen border security and safety, and increase and reallocate resources for border interdiction.

(f) Expand the eligibility for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), to permit more young undocumented high school graduates to get work permits. New DACA work permits will be valid for 3 years, instead of the current 2 years.

(g) Create a Deferred Action program for Parents of US citizens and LPRs who have been in the USA for more than five years. To qualify, applicants will need to register with the government, pay back taxes, undergo fingerprinting and a background check, and pay application fees.

Please check back here in the coming days, for more information, as we learn the details of the new program. If you would like to set up an appointment, feel free to contact the office. --j

November 21, 2014

President Obama Orders An Immigration Overhaul

President Obama Orders An Immigration Overhaul

President Obama takes action to help keep families together

On Thursday evening, President Obama announced that he would issue executive actions in order to fix certain aspects of the immigration system. The executive orders are expected to affect up to 5 million undocumented immigrants inside the United States.

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November 18, 2014

Merits Hearing versus the Master Calendar Docket

Merits Hearing vs. Master Calendar HearingMerits Hearing in Immigration Court vs. Master Calendar Docket

There are two different types of court hearings during removal proceedings involving non-detained individuals. The first is known as the Master Calendar hearing and the other is known as the Individual hearing or Merits hearing.

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November 12, 2014

Republican Majority in Congress and Immigration Reform

Republicans and Immigration Reform

A Republican Congress

What will this mean for Immigration Reform?

This is the new reality: in 2015 and 2016, Republicans will control both houses of Congress — the House of Representatives and the Senate. And to that, I say: It’s time for the Republicans to show us — the American electorate — what their ideas for immigration reform are.

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November 4, 2014

Immigration Case Lessons: Matter of Ezra Kibichii Bett

Immigration Court | What You Don’t Say Can And Will Be Used Against You

In Immigration Court, What You Don’t Say Can And Will Be Used Against You

Seemingly Non-Immigration-Related Documents Can Be Used Against You in Immigration Court

The Board of Immigration Appeals recently determined that a seemingly non-immigration-related document can be used as evidence by the Department of Homeland Security to support its deportation case. The case is called Matter of Bett.

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