NVC ltr.JPGIn January 2013, the US Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC) began sending letters to many prospective immigrants about the “I-601A PROVISIONAL WAIVER OF UNLAWFUL PRESENCE.” This letter is scaring the living daylights out of thousands of immigrants. At Fong & Aquino in Los Angeles and Palm Springs, I have fielded about one hundred inquiries about this letter.

The first and most important thing to remember is: this letter and the I-601A Provisional Waiver ONLY — repeat ONLY — apply to a future immigrant if s/he is currently in the USA unlawfully, or has been unlawfully present in the USA in the past. Someone is illegally present if s/he enters the USA without inspection at a border post or airport, or if the person enters legally and then overstays the time granted on their landing permit.

If the future immigrant has never — ever — been in the USA, this letter and the I-601A waiver does not apply to him/her.

Last summer, President Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program which would allow some young people who were brought to the United States at a very young age to obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD – a work permit). With all the discussion of amnesty and Comprehensive Immigration Reform, I still get people asking me here at Fong & Aquino whether this DACA program still exists.

It does.

To qualify for the program, a successful applicant must show that s/he:

Nation of Imm.jpgFor over 10 years, immigrants and their families have come to Fong & Aquino and asked me about any possible changes to the immigration law that will help them. I hear, from clients in Los Angeles, Palm Springs, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, and many other places that they need some change in the immigration law to allow them to stay in this country and pursue their dreams, work productively, be free from persecution, and most importantly, to be united with their families.

For the first time since 1990, a major change in the immigration law may be coming.

You probably already know that the US Congress has been deadlocked for over 4 years, with the members (mostly) of one political party refusing to cooperate with the White House. As a result, a Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) bill has never been seriously discussed. With the results of the recent re-election of President Barack Obama, and (many) members of the Republican party realizing that it is in their best interest to help immigrants, CIR may be on its way. What will it do?

Alt Route Waver.jpgOver many years, Fong & Aquino has counseled many immigrants who have come to the USA without passport or visa, or who have come legally but overstayed. In many of these case, it has not been possible to process the paperwork for an immigrant visa (the green card) without first having the immigrant depart the USA to go back to the US Embassy in the home country for an interview. In some cases, this means that the immigrant must file an I-601 Waiver of Ground of Inadmissibility at the US Embassy and wait months for a decision. And if the I-601 is denied, the immigrant cannot be reunited with family in the USA for 3 or 10 years!

For this reason, many green-card eligible applicants are afraid to leave the USA for their interview; they are afraid that if their I-601 waiver is denied, they will not be able to return to their families for 10 years. The risk of NOT being granted the waiver is too great, so they have avoided legalizing altogether.

Until now.

In early January 2013, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced a new procedure. This new procedure — called the I-601A Provisional Waiver — still requires the immigrant-applicant to apply for the waiver, to seek a pardon for coming to the USA without papers, or for overstaying. However, this request for a waiver can now be filed before departure from the USA and before going to the interview at the American Embassy. In this way, the immigrant-applicant will know provisionally whether they will be able to return quickly after their Embassy interview or not — before leaving the USA.
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Changes Ahead2.jpgAfter practicing law together for almost one decade, Eileen Chun-Fruto and I have evolved into different forms of law practice. I will continue to practice immigration and nationality law, handle consultations, and do my blog here at my offices in Los Angeles and in Palm Springs. The firm name is now, “Fong & Aquino.” You can reach me, as before, at Tel: +1.323.769.8187 — this is the same phone number you have used in the past. My new e-mail address is: j@jfonglaw.com . My webpage is now: http://www.jfonglaw.com .

My practice will continue to focus on families, waivers, small business investors, intra-company transferees, and investor visas. Also, as I have been for all 30 years of my law work, I remain very devoted to counseling, advocating for, and working with non-traditional families.

Eileen Chun-Fruto now practices immigration law with a law firm in downtown Los Angeles. She can be reached at echun@fongandchun.com.

I was dismayed (but not particularly shocked) to read about the arrests and indictments of persons involved in fraudulent schemes to obtain asylum for clients in New York City’s Chinatown and Flushing neighborhoods. You can read more about it in the New York Times or in the U.S. Attorney’s press release.
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IRS.pngThe immigration lawyers at Fong & Aquino in Los Angeles and in Palm Springs have been hearing that US Customs & Border Protection (CBP) officers — the border guards at the airports and other ports of entry (POE) — have been asking arriving US citizens and residents about taxes owed to the IRS and the US Government.

CBP maintains a database called Treasury Enforcement Communications System (TECS). This lookout system is used for the screening of travelers at border inspection points and maintains data on people when some kind of enforcement action has been taken against or about that traveler. For example, if an traveler is sent to secondary screening, if a warrant for arrest has been issued, if there is a lookout posted for that traveler, or “where law enforcement or intelligence agencies have identified information or contexts that relate to a person.”

Apparently, TECS is now being used to identify taxpayers with unpaid tax assessments who are traveling to the USA. If you live outside the USA or spend a great deal of time outside the USA, and if the IRS has been unable to contact the you, and if you are subject to a filed Notice of Federal Tax Lien, you may be pulled aside at the airport or POE by CBP.

papers.jpgAt our offices in Los Angeles and in Palm Springs, the immigration attorneys at Fong & Aquino have been receiving hundreds of phone calls about the President’s recently-announced initiative to provide Deferred Action to certain undocumented young people, providing them with work permits (Employment Authorization Documents – EAD).

On 15 June 2012, President Obama announced that he was directing US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to provide EADs to undocumented young people who meet certain qualifications. A successful applicant must show that s/he:

* arrived in the USA before age 16;

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Did my ears deceive me this morning, or did the presumptive Republican presidential nominee say that he would “lift the cap” on spouses and children of Legal Permanent Residents? If so, this is a big deal for many, many immigrants waiting to come to or be legalized in the USA.

The immigration attorneys at Fong & Aquino, both in our Los Angeles and Palm Springs offices often counsel Legal Permanent Residents (Green Card holders) about bringing spouse and children to the USA. Green Card holders have the privilege of petitioning these family members, but because of the way the US quotas are set up, and depending on the country of birth, these family members end up waiting between 3 years (in the best case) and a staggering 20 years (for persons born in countries with highest demand to come to the USA). The spouse and unmarried children of Green Card holders are in “Family-Based Priority 2” under the US Immigration and Nationality Act, and this category limits the number of green cards to be given out in any one year under this priority. This quota creates HUGE backlogs and wait lists.

In a speech today before the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO), republican Mitt Romney said that he would “left the cap” on these Priority 2 immigrants. The effect of this would be to cut short all the waiting and allow these ever-patient relatives to process their green cards right away.