March 2010 Archives

March 17, 2010

USCIS Often Googles, Checks Facebook and Other Networking Sites

Flying Trapeze.jpgAn immigration lawyer who has been in practice for any respectable period of time encounters fun, funny, and bizarre situations. The attorneys at the immigration law offices of J Craig Fong in Los Angeles have, among them, 40 years of experience, and a recent article describes how the Department of Justice uses your own Google enties, and postings to Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites as evidence against you. If you post about the car you stole, or you post your picture taking a hit from your favorite bong, that information can be used against you!

The Law Offices of J Craig Fong are located in the Hollywood area of Los Angeles, and we are no strangers to clients with "fast" lifestyles. Years ago, one American client applied for Legal Residence for his wife, who was from Scandinavia. Imagine their shock -- and mine -- when at the immigration interview the adjudicator pulled up photos that were posted on the couple's Facebook page -- photos that depicted a very frisky sex party that they had hosted at their Hollywood Hills home two months earlier. Not having been invited to the party myself, I had no idea about this couple's hobby, and they certainly never told me about it. Now, there is nothing illegal in California about having a some like-minded friends come for an evening's fun and recreation. However, this is hardly the kind of thing that promotes a favorable experience with generally-suspicious immigration officers. (Yes, the green card was eventually granted.)

So: at the Law Offices of J Craig Fong, we have been telling immigration applicants for years that if there is ANYthing found on a Google search or posted on social networking sites -- even postings and activities that are perfectly legal -- that they would rather not show to the Department of Homeland Security, it would be wise to remove them. Better to be safe than to be put into the position of explaining to USCIS what you do with that trapeze in the living room. --jcf

March 11, 2010

Some Small Options for Citizens of Chile

Two very strong aftershocks hit Chile today, right around the time of the inauguration of Chile's new president, Sebastián Piñera, in Santiago. Immigration lawyers at the Law Offices of J Craig Fong in Los Angeles have received a continuous flow of inquiries about any possible immigration benefits that might be made available to Chilenos. While el Presidente Piñera may have promised una nueva forma de gobernar, it is mostly business as usual with US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Some small developments:

* USCIS says that Chilenos may submit applications for extension of stay (EOS) or change of visa status (COS), even in cases where the individual's authorized stay on the I-94 has expired. Please note that USCIS does not say that all these applications will be approved. If a Chileno has been out of status in the USA for a very long period of time, it is not clear that filing a EOS or COS would be effective to fix things.

* Individuals may seek to extend a parole that has already been granted. Also, individuals may apply for expedited advance parole to exit and re-enter the USA. Be careful, because an advance parole is not a guarantee of re-admission, and an advance parole does not cure the problem of the 3-10 Bar which applies to persons unlawfully present in the USA for more than 6 months. If you exit the USA, and if you have been unlawfully present in the USA for more than 6 months, you may have serious difficulty getting another visa or legal resident status in the future.

* Chilean F-1 students can apply for Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) which will allow them to accept employment in the USA, if they can demostrate that they are experiencing economic hardship due to the earthquakes in Chile.

* Certain family immigration petitions can be expedited.

Many Chilenos have had questions about Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and it does not seem as if Congress is going to create a TPS for Chilenos. It is still a possibility, but if they have not done so by now, I am doubtful. If you have questions about your options, contact our office, or the office of an experienced immigration attorney. --jcf

March 9, 2010

Greece Now Eligible for Visa Waiver Program

SmGreek Flag.jpegThe citizens of some countries are allowed to enter the USA as touristic or business visitors without first obtaining a B-1/B-2 visitor visa. As Los Angeles immigration lawyers, The Law Offices of J Craig Fong often receives questions about whether a particular country is eligible for this Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

Today, the US Department of Homeland Security announced that citizens of Greece are now eligible to enter the USA as visitors, using the VWP. Eligibility for the VWP is based on a country's compliance with security and data-sharing requirements--such as law enforcement and security-related data sharing with the United States; timely reporting of lost and stolen passports; and maintenance of strong law enforcement, counterterrorism, border, aviation, and document security protocols. In turn, citizens of Greece will be permitted to travel to the United States for up to 90 days as visitors without first obtaining a visa.

Any Greek citizen that wishes to enter the USA as a visitor using the VWP must first register him/her self under the US government's Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). This registration must take place prior to boarding any flight to the USA. Information about ESTA is available here. --jcf

March 8, 2010

Chile: Estado protegido temporal (TPS)

Flag Chile.jpeg

The powerful earthquake that hit Chile moved the entire city of Concepcíon, Chile 3 meters to the west! When such a natural calamity strikes a particular country, the immigration lawyers at the Law Offices of J Craig Fong in Los Angeles receive many calls and e-mails from citizens from that country about the possibility of staying in the USA, because of the problems back home.

The US government sometimes permits citizens from that country to remain in the USA -- even after their visas or landing permits have expired -- due to the emergency circumstances in the home country. This designation -- which is called Temporary Protected Status (TPS) -- is made by the US government. At the present time, Chile has not yet been designated a TPS-eligible country by the US government.

A veces, por situaciones de urgencia nacional, el gobierno estadounidense les permite a ciudadanos de algunos paises de quedar en los EE.UU. -- aunque sus visas o permisos sean vencidos. Esta designación se llama Estado Protegido Temporal (TPS, en inglés). En este momento, los ciudadanos de La República de Chile todavía no han sido nombrado como eligible por TPS por el gobierno estadounidense.

If you are from Chile and wish to contact the attorneys at the Law Offices of J Craig Fong to discuss your options, please call to make an appointment. --jcf

March 5, 2010

USCIS (Again) Criticized for Arbitrary Requirements

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (for the western part of the USA) handed down a decision on 4 March 2010 that strongly criticizes -- and rules against -- US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for arbitrarily imposing novel substantive or evidential requirements over and above those required by immigration regulations. The Law Offices of J Craig Fong immigration lawyers in Los Angeles have recently seen an increase in USCIS Requests for Evidence (RFEs) which ask for (a) documents which have already been submitted, (b) information which does not relate to the case at hand, and (c) proof which is not required or is irrelevant.

This case is a vindication of the rule of law, that USCIS cannot simply make up the rules as it goes along, lawlessly flying by the seat of its administrative pants. This case says that USCIS must follow the law and provide a reasonable and fair process. This case, called Kazarian v. USCIS, can be read here.

Does this mean that USCIS will now and forever cease and desist from arbitrary and capricious rulings, making up requirements outside the regulations, and creating their own rules? Of course not. It does mean that, at least here in the western region, attorneys have an additional legal precedent to correct future wrong-doing. --jcf

March 3, 2010

Job Creation - Opportunities for Foreign Investors

When the Senate advanced the job-creation bill last week, employers were given the signal that hiring tax incentives are on the horizon. Perhaps in a nod to the Administration's No. 1 priority of creating jobs for unemployed Americans, the USCIS has just announced a forum on the EB-5 immigrant investor program. In the last year, and as recently as December 2009, the USCIS issued updated guidance on I-526 and I-829 filings so that USCIS adjudications could make decisions with clarity and consistency, allowing investors to make job creation through the EB-5 program a reality soon as possible. These are all indications that this is the time for foreign investors to again bring private enterprise to our great nation.

The upcoming USCIS EB-5 forum is only open to attorneys representing these so-called "million dollar investors." The Law Offices of J Craig Fong attorneys will be in attendance and ready to present concerns facing our clients as well as potential issues for those investors considering the EB-5 program.

It is true that the EB-5 investors greencard process is often called "hypertechnical," and has in the past been plagued by administrative delay and inconsistent treatment. But I believe that the view of recent USCIS' actions, the agency is acknowledging just how critical the EB-5 investors program is to our nation's economic recovery. For each EB-5 investment, 10 full-time jobs must be created, and that means 10 more working Americans. Call Law Offices of J Craig Fong if you would like to discuss how you can start investing in America. ---ecf