Hand Stop.jpgThe immigration lawyers at Fong & Aquino prepare hundreds of visa applications annually. We handle visa applicants from the UK, France, Spain, Switzerland, China, Japan, Canada, México, El Salvador, Argentina, Australia, Nigeria, Ghana, South Afrika, and dozens of other countries.

Under some circumstances, our clients, whether they are here in Los Angeles or elsewhere, must leave the USA to obtain their visas from the US Embassy or Consulate-General outside the USA.

Because of heightened security concerns at US posts abroad, many everyday articles MAY NOT be brought into a US Embassy or Consulate. The obvious ones are: fire arms, ammunition, sharp weapons. But other prohibited items include:

flag+liberty.jpegThe USA naturalizes about 680,000 new citizens per year, at ceremonies across the USA and around the world. For many immigration law clients of Fong & Aquino, US citizenship is their goal. For many, US citizenship is the culmination of a life-long dream.

In 2009, just under 75% of all newly-naturalized persons resided in ten states (in descending order): California, New York, Florida, Texas, New Jersey, Illinois, Virginia, Massachusetts, Washington, and Maryland. The leading metropolitan areas were:

* New York, Northern New Jersey, Long Island: 15%

So the H-1B cap for FY 2011 was finally reached on January 26, 2011. Petitions delivered to a USCIS service center on the 26th, will undergo the H-1B lottery, and if you “win” a slot for the coveted last day to submit an H-1B for FY 2011, your case will go on towards adjudication. Petitions that do not get “chosen” through the lottery, will be returned, along with filing fee checks and all documentation.

For the rest of you reading who are still looking for a job, or perhaps using your time on OPT which may expire in the next few months, the obvious question is “what next?” Aside from getting your petition ready for an April 1, 2011 filing (allowing an October 1, 2011 start date), the options care woefully limited.

F-1 students with degrees in the so-called “STEM” majors (science, technology, engineering and medicine) can apply for an extended OPT period. Others may be out of luck if they can’t find a job offer that is H-1B eligible. Other than extending F-1 status by pursuing another degree or perhaps some type of certificate program in your major, some people will opt for a J-1 internship which allows professional graduates to work for up to 18 months in an internship program that is certified by USCIS through a J-1 sponsoring organization. Other options might be an O-1 if you are of extraordinary ability or perhaps you might be eligible for an investors visa if you are the entrepreneurial type. For more information on what your options might be, visit our website at www.jfonglaw.com and fill out an intake form so we can help you decide your next move. –ecf

toll booth.jpgThe most important initial concern for any visitor to the USA is being able to enter the USA. at Fong & Aquino, our immigration law clients want to be able to clear customs and immigration — here in Los Angeles, or at any other port of entry — as quickly as possible; our job as immigration lawyers is to help them do so.

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has started a test program, running until about 19 March 2011, at the US border crossing at El Paso/Ysleta, permitting use of a “Ready Lane” by those who have certain approved documents. The documents must be approved Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology-enabled travel cards, documents, and passports. Only those with RFID-compliant documents may use the dedicated “Ready Lane.”

To use the “Ready Lane,” each passenger over age 16 in the vehicle must have an approved RFID-enabled document, such as a US passport card, the new Border Crossing Card, the new green Permanent Resident card, and other approved documents. Then:

notequal.jpegIn recent years, the immigration attorneys at Fong & Aquino in Los Angeles have heard an increasing number of horror stories of people who have sought legal advice or assistance from consultants, non-lawyers, and notaries public. In many of these cases, the advice given or the work done has been seriously flawed — and it is the immigrant who suffers. USCIS is starting to crack down on those who are not qualified to advise immigrants.

An immigration consultant or notary is not the same as an immigration attorney. They are not trained to recognize fact patterns, not trained to read and analyze the law and statutes, and they are not required to stay current on recent developments. For all these reasons, even if someone does not want to work with me — and everyone is entitled to a preference — I urge anyone with an immigration case to seek the counsel of a licensed attorney. Because US immigration law is a Federal matter and not a State matter, an attorney licensed in any of the fifty states or the District of Columbia will suffice, as long as s/he focuses on immigration and nationality law.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is beginning to collect information and investigate persons who are engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. The investigations are starting in selected areas and will go nationwide afterwards. –jcf

QuestionMark.jpgAs an immigration law firm, Fong & Aquino in Los Angeles receives questions about “what does immigration know about me” or “what does the computer at the airport show.”

As a matter of national security, this information is not officially made available; however, a recent discussion with a client has provided a few clues. A young, female client was entering the USA at an international airport, and the officers saw entries in the computer, and they knew:

* all of her entries to and exits from the USA,

I’ve been fielding a lot of calls for PERM lately. I’m not sure if it’s related to the fact that indications for the private sector and employment numbers are on the rise or if it’s the beginning of a new year and everyone wants to start their permanent residency applications, or just what.

Either way, I wanted to summarize just what it takes to start and submit a successful PERM application. PERM, which is the formal name for the Department of Labor’s (DOL) foreign labor certification application, Form ETA 9089 – is a complicated process. Before an applicant even deals with the USCIS, an applicant’s employer must conduct a formal recruitment campaign, setting out advertisements for the employment opportunity and only after weeks of advertising plus a 30-day quiet period, can a PERM application be submitted. A useful overview of the entire process can be found at our website: www.jfonglaw.com
In the meanwhile, a lot of things must be achieved during this time: DOL’s independent verification of the company’s existence, a prevailing wage determination also by DOL, and of course, meticulous documentation of the advertisings and recruitment results. If all goes well, a PERM applicant may see their application lodged with the DOL some 2-4 months after starting the process. Current processing times once a labor certification has been submitted are surprisingly short right now. Our office recently received a labor certification approval within 2.5 weeks of submission. And while I can’t ensure that this trend continues, it is a welcome surprise. I will explain the second and third stages to a PERM application in the next blog, so please check back in a couple of days. —ecf

Just last night, Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) filed a new version of the DREAM Act in an effort to get the 60 required votes to pass the Senate where a vote may occur as early as Monday.

This new version of the DREAM Act includes the following provisions:

  • Excludes from eligibility those with certain criminal convictions, such as for offenses punishable by a maximum term of more than 1 year (felony) or 3 misdemeanors

Fiscal year 2011 has been a relatively slow year for H-1B usage. Whether it’s the economy or increased scrutiny of H-1B petitions or increased H-1B filing fees, I thought you might want to know that the quota is still open.

As of November 22, USCIS informed the public that approximately 48,977 cases have been counted against the general quota and approximately 17,836 cases have been counted against the advanced degree quota.

If you would like help in submitting a successful H-1B case, call the attorneys at Fong & Aquino for a free H-1B consultation. —ecf