February 2010 Archives

February 27, 2010

Earthquake in Chile; Tsunami Threats Worldwide

Chile: an 8.8 magnitude earthquake hit Chile today. Lasting 90 seconds it was 500x more powerful than the one that shook Haiti. Tsunami warnings and alerts are now in place from South America to Asia and throughout the Pacific. Evacuations have already begun in Hawai'i. Law Offices of J Craig Fong sends a message of hope and support to our Chilean clients who may have relatives or loved ones in the country.

Like Haitians present in the United States after the devastating earthquake in their home country, Chileans in the United States may soon be eligible for "Temporary Protected Status" or "TPS" if Congress designates Chile as a country where nationals cannot return safely because of dire conditions impacting the country. Haiti was designated a TPS country on January 21, 2010, only nine days after the January 12 earthquake.

Travel back to Chile may be impossible for quite some time, however those who have H-1B1 or other temporary visas, and who want to travel to the country in the weeks to come should review the Department of State website for all warnings on travel conditions.

Please contact Law Offices of J Craig Fong if you are from Chile and your visa has expired or if you have other questions about possible TPS status. ---ecf

February 26, 2010

Adoptions of Orphans from Haiti

USCIS published guidance this week helping adoptive parents with pending adoptions of orphaned children from Haiti. To help families whose adoptions were not finalized before the earthquake, a separate category now allows for the parole of children into the United States even before the adoption is final.

For families who want to bring their children into the US before the adoption has been finalized, once here, adoptive parents will need to choose between adjusting their child's status as an orphan or as an adopted child. Few immigration attorneys have handled cases of orphaned children or adoptions made in the United States.

The attorneys at Law Offices of J Craig Fong have extensive experience in helping families to immigrate both orphaned children and children already present in the United States. If you would like a free consultation about the the options you may have for your family, call us for a free consultation. As we have in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Law Offices of J Craig Fong has encouraged clients to give to the relief efforts for Haiti in lieu of consultation fees. We thank those who have given to the Red Cross and to Doctors Without Borders. ---ecf

February 17, 2010

FY 2010 H-1B Season: Issues on the Horizon

The H-1B season begins on April 1, 2010. The attorneys at Law Offices of J Craig Fong have been fielding phone calls and queries about filing new H-1B petitions. With relatively new changes in place for processing labor condition applications (LCA) this new process has caused such delay that even the USCIS ombudsman has called for some leniency in accepting cases with no certified LCA.

Based on last H-1B season, employer's tax returns, payroll records and other indicators of viability are now highly scrutinized. Applicants should also be prepared for the USCIS to review all of their previous immigration history, and of course their qualifications for the job. If you have questions about the H-1B process and how you can best prepare your application, contact Law Offices of J Craig Fong. ---ecf

February 11, 2010

Immigration Reform Bill Introduced in Congress

As immigration attorneys with very strong roots in the immigrant communities of Los Angeles, the lawyers at the Law Offices of J Craig Fong stay current on legislative developments that could affect our clients and their families. On 15 December 2009, over ninety House Democrats unveiled a comprehensive immigration reform bill. The bill is called the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America's Security and Prosperity Act of 2009 (CIR-ASAP).

President Obama has said there should be comprehensive immigration reform. The bill includes an "earned" legalization program. The program as currently proposed would allow undocumented people in the USA as of 15 December 2009 to apply for legalization. There would be special, more lenient rules for young persons. Many people want to call this an "amnesty," but it is important to see all the details about the program before getting too excited.

There are other provisions for "visa recapture" to reduce waiting times and backlogs. This bill would also put a new employment-eligibility-verification system into place. There would be harsh penalties for hiring unauthorized workers.

These proposed changes are very exciting; however, we must remember that this bill is only a PROPOSAL. It will have many reincarnations before a final bill passes, if a bill passes at all. The President has said he wants CIR on his desk by the end of 2010, but there are obviously many other things occupying the attention of Congress at this time. Stay tuned. --jcf

February 8, 2010

The USA is Bigger...

flag_CNMI.gifAll immigration law attorneys must deal with foreign countries, unique international legal issues, and some quaint interpretations of law. The lawyers at Los Angeles' Law Offices of J Craig Fong are no exception, and in fact, this recent change affects some of our clients who do business in or own businesses in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI).

On 28 November 2008, "the United States" as defined for purposes of the Immigration & Nationality Act (INA) just got bigger, with the addition of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Although there are probably wrinkles I have not yet read in the treaty, this essentially puts the CNMI on the same footing as Puerto Rico. Here's the cute part:

Because the CNMI will become part of the "United States" as defined by ยง101(a)(38) of the INA, "residence or presence in the CNMI before 28 November 2009 shall NOT be considered residence or physical presence within the USA for INA purposes. Thus, on 29 November 2009, all persons physically present in the CNMI are considered "to be present in the United States without inspection, by operation of law."

Will these PWIs (present without inspection) be eligible to adjust status? Unclear? Are they working "abroad" for purposes of L visas? Yes, as it turns out. One thing is clear: Legal Permanent Residents (so-called "green" card holders) who wish to base a naturalization application based on physical presence in the CNMI will NOT be able to do so for pre-29 November 2009 periods of time. Isn't this esoterica fun? --jcf

February 5, 2010

Retina Scans Being Done at US Ports of Entry

We at the Law Offices of J Craig Fong in Los Angeles believe in keeping the USA safe; however, we are also aware that many security measures can be a burden. As immigration attorneys, we are alert to security mechanisms which may violate the civil rights of immigrants and visitors.

We have recently recently received a report -- which we have not yet been able to verify -- that the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Newark, New Jersey ports of entry are conducting retina scans on arriving non-Americans and non-Legal Permanent Residents. This is in addition to the fingerprints that are routinely taken from all US visitors.

There may be other ports of entry using the retina scan, and we would appreciate hearing from anyone who knows which other POEs are using such scans.

Although the retina scan is not intrusive and does not cause any discomfort, it is an additional level of identify verification being used by the Department of Homeland Security. Visitors should not be surprised if they are asked to permit a retina scan. --jcf