A Southern California politician and some anti-immigrant activists are seeking to put a measure on the California ballot that would deny a "regular" California birth certificate to children born in the USA, if the parents are unlawfully present in the country. The initiative would also limit the public benefits such citizen-children could receive. The immigration law firm of Fong & Chun opposes this initiative.
Not only does this cynical, divisive initiative cripple the State's ability to look after all the children who reside in California, but the change it proposes violates the US Constitution. Do not let a radical right-wing measure create second-class citizens!
Please contact your friends and family and urge them to oppose this mean-spirited and unconstitutional measure.
President Barack Obama campaigned on an platform for that included comprehensive immigration reform that would improve our immigration system and secure our borders. President Obama is keeping that promise in a White House announcement yesterday that he will push for immigration reform.
Among the topics for comprehensive immigration reform are:
- a pathway to legalization for certain undocumented aliens
- a better and more continued infrastructure for professional and working immigrants
- continued prioritization of family reunification
- continued funding and resources for fraud detection and prevention and enforcement of removable aliens, including criminal aliens.
Meaningful immigration reform will also mean that strict requirements must be met, such as proof that you have paid taxes in the past, that you have a clear criminal background, and that you can speak and read English. Legalization applicants will probably also have to pay a penalty fine. If you have questions about how immigration reform might affect you or if you have questions about someone you know who could be eligible, contact Fong & Chun, LLP for more information on our resources to keep you updated. --ecf
The May Visa Bulletin shows that all employment-based third preference (EB-3) category visas are listed as "U," or "unavailable." This means that the USCIS cannot issue any immigrant visas (greencards) to people who are being sponsored under the EB-3 category until next October, when the new fiscal year begins and when immigrant visa numbers are replenished. This will affect hundreds of thousands of applicants who have been waiting for their greencard cases to become "current" for several years. Some applicants have been waiting since 2001 and even longer! What many applicants do not realize is that they could be eligible for an EB-2 or "second preference" category greencard if they meet certain requirements. Most people who are eligible for the EB-2 category are people who hold a master's degree but some applicants who have more than 5 years of experience in their field may also qualify.
You should contact an immigration visa attorney if you believe you are eligible for an EB-2 category greencard application. Experienced immigration attorneys who regularly represent employers in the labor certification process (PERM) can identify strong second preference greencard cases. Although this is considered a more difficult case to present to the Department of Labor and to the USCIS, the benefits are immense. Instead of waiting 7 or more years for a greencard through the EB-3 category, waiting times under the EB-2 category can be reduced to 2-3 years, possibly less if you use a competent immigration attorney.
I am most proud of a case involving a professional worker who had many years of experience in her field of work. Even though she did not have a Master's degree, we decided to pursue a more difficult EB-2 PERM case because one of her children was turning 21 years old within the year. If we chose the EB-3 route, this child would be considered "aged-out" upon her 21st birthday and that child would never derive a greencard from her mother's petition. We decided to take a chance on the more difficult PERM case and earlier this year, the entire family (eldest child included) received their greencards thanks to our decision to file the EB-2 case and also because we benefitted from the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) which can "freeze" a child's age for immigration purposes.
Some clients think that if they already have an EB-3 case pending, they cannot also file for an EB-2. This is not true if certain requirements are met. If you have a long-pending EB-3 case, check with an immigration attorney to see if you qualify for an EB-2 second preference application.
Since the USCIS has received less than the maximum number of cases it can accept, employers and applicants who opted for premium processing to get an expedited response for H-1B status will begin receiving receipt notices dated April 7, 2009, which will be counted as the first day in the 15 day period.
The USCIS did send out a few receipt notices dated last week. It is confirmed that those receipt notices are invalid and issued as a mistake. If you received a receipt notice dated before April 7, 2009, call an immigration attorney to make sure that your case receives a proper receipt notice. Receipt notices that were issued by the USCIS by mistake will not be honored.
Applicants whose H-1Bs are being premium processed will begin receiving notification of an approval or a Request for Evidence (RFE) in the next 15 calendar days. RFEs mean that your case may not be approvable and you'll need to prove to the USCIS that your case has merit. It is very important for you to find an H-1B immigration visa attorney to respond to the RFE. You will only have 30-84 days to respond.
As the pioneering Los Angeles immigration law firm that has always welcomed inquiries and consultation from members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender communities, Fong & Chun has been tracking the progress of Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) in the US Congress.
The New York Times is reporting that the White House will begin pushing Comprehensive Immigration Reform soon. The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA )must be included in the reform package.
UAFA will permit US citizens to petition for and immigrate their same-sex partners, on an equal basis as traditional spouses.
A comprehensive overhaul of the immigration system will be controversial. There are possible provisions that will please some and displease others. Reasonable minds can disagree about these provisions. What is clear to me, however, is that CIR must include provisions for UAFA.
The one hope is that enough people contact their Senators and Representatives to encourage them to vote in favor of CIR, and especially for UAFA. Even if you believe your Senator or Representative is already "on board," write anyway. There will be lots of radical right-wing pressure to jettison any benefit for same-sex couples, and your legislator will need the political cover to stand firm..
Also, you should write to your state legislators, too. Why state legislators, when immigration is a Federal issue? Because you should ask your state senator, state legislator, and governor to themselves contact Washington DC, to pressure the Congress to do the fair and equitable thing and support UAFA.
Most observers and other immigration attorneys here in Los Angeles believe that the issue will hit full force sometime in late summer, or early autumn. The time to let your legislators know your sentiments is now. Encourage your friends and family, all over the nation -- not just in Los Angeles -- to write to their senators and representatives! --jcf
As experienced immigration lawyers in Los Angeles, Fong & Chun recommend that applicants use credit cards, personal checks, money orders to pay when e-filing immigration-related applications, but NOT electronic checks or "e-checks."
US Immigration & Immigration Services (USCIS) gives applicants the option of e-filing certain applications. The methods of payment include an "e-check." Some may have had successful experiences, but if you are going to e-file, we recommend using your credit card. We have had recent reports where the e-check did not go through, or where USCIS said that the "check" was returned for insufficient funds even where there was more than enough money to cover the check, and where USCIS referred the matter to collection. It took weeks to sort out the USCIS error. Often the applicant ends up paying twice!
Until USCIS' e-filing system is more reliable, and until the system allows for fairer resolution of difficulties, we recommend using paper applications and paying by personal check or money order. Of course, you should always send all paperwork to USCIS via Certified Mail - Return Receipt Requested. This way, you can check the progress of your filing and the cashing of your check.
If you have questions, please contact us. --jcf
Whether you are a US citizen, a US Legal Permanent Resident (LPR), or a foreign national visiting the USA, the immigration law office of Fong & Chun in Los Angeles recommends that anyone who loses a passport or an LPR card report that loss to local law enforcement.
A lost US passport is serious business. Report the loss or theft to local police and to the US Department of State immediately. You should bring the report with you when you apply for your new passport. Although getting a replacement from the US Department of State is a relatively simple matter, border guards will likely pull you aside the next couple of times you enter the USA at a Port of Entry (POE) to verify your identity. They may also ask you about the circumstances under which you lost the passport. Remember: the circumstances regarding the loss or theft of your passport will be in the computer at the checkpoint.
A lost LPR card is almost as serious. A replacement is possible. US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will charge you (at present writing) $355 to replace the card using Form I-90. They will ask you about the circumstances under which the card was lost or stolen; they may also ask for a copy of the police report. To process the replacement card, you will be sent an appointment for fingerprinting and identity verification. Until you get the replacement card, travel and job seeking will be awkward. After the I-90 is filed, use InfoPass to obtain a stamp in your passport to permit you to work and travel.
If you lose your foreign passport, you should report the loss to local police and also to your country's consulate or embassy. Also, you should apply to the DHS for a replacement of your I-94 Arrival-Departure Control Card.
If you have questions, please contact us. --jcf
The immigration law office of Fong & Chun in Los Angeles receives many inquiries from travellers from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries about the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) program. The ESTA program is ONLY for citizens of countries who do NOT need actual visas to enter the USA. If you are a citizen of another country, you should not register with ESTA.
ESTA registration is for citizens of Visa Waiver countries who wish to enter the USA using the Visa Waiver. If the traveller is using another visa, such as F-1, H-1b, L-1, E-2, or any other nonimmigrant visa, ESTA registration is not required.
ESTA was put into place to allow the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to pre-screen travellers coming to the USA who are citizens of countries who do not need visas to enter the USA: the so-called Visa Waiver Countries. The entire application process is conducted online and operated by DHS.
This pre-screening allows DHS to check to see if the traveller is on a security watchlist, has a criminal record, has a warrant for his/her arrest, or is the subject of some other concern.
An ESTA registration is NOT a visa or "electronic visa," NOT a guarantee that the traveler will be admitted upon arrival in the USA, and NOT an assurance that border guards will not hassle you at the immigration checkpoint. Remember: Even if your ESTA registration is "accepted" by the DHS computer, you have NO assurance of admission -- or even civil treatment at the border -- to the USA.
There are a number of for-profit websites who claim to be able to help you with an ESTA registration. These sites imply that by using their services, you will somehow have an easier time of entering the USA. This is NOT true.
If you have any ESTA questions, please contact us. --jcf