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.
I occasionally watch “Elementary” on CBS. My wife is a big fan. Since we only have one TV, let’s just say that if my wife is watching it, then I’m watching it.
The 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.
Agents at the airport or POE may ask what assets you have in the USA, the purpose and duration of your trip, where you are staying, and similar information. They can also ask about your employment relationships in the USA, to establish wage garnishment possibilities.
Taxpayers who reside outside the USA are sometimes not aware that they have outstanding US tax liabilities, so whether or not a US citizen is required to file a tax return, it may be a good idea to keep IRS apprised of your current address -- in order to avoid any nasty surprises at a POE. If you have any questions about your tax liabilities, you should contact your tax preparer. If you have questions about your immigration status, contact the immigration attorneys at Fong & Aquino. --jcf
At 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;
* has resided in the USA since 15 June 2007;
* is currently in school, has graduated from high school, has obtained a general education development certificate, or is honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;
* has not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety; and
* is not over the age of thirty.
It is not yet possible to submit an application for this Deferred Action EAD. We expect to have details and how and where to apply sometime before 15 August 2012.
Until then, what can a potential applicant do to get ready?
1. Get a certified copy of your birth certificate.
2. If you arrived in the USA with a passport, visa, or border crossing card, be sure to keep this document safe -- it will demonstrate when you arrived in the USA.
3. If you did not arrive in the USA with a passport or other travel document, then try to look for documents that show you were in the USA as of 15 June 2007. Such documents might include: school records, medical records, dental records, baptismal or other church records, and photos.
4. Get a certified copy of your complete school record.
We do NOT recommend that a potential applicant get a copy of his/her criminal record at this time.
Making an application for Deferred Action is a big step, and it can have good and bad consequences. It is critically important that you understand all the possibilities before making the application. If you would like to discuss Deferred Action for yourself, a family member, or a friend, contact the immigration attorneys at Fong & Aquino: +1.323.769.8187 --jcf
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.
Did Romney mean to say this?
It's not clear. The Immigration and Nationality Act is frighteningly complex. Many people do not clearly understand the immigration law, and that includes immigration officials as well as laypersons. They toss around words like "immigrant," and "citizen," and "legal," and "illegal," and "quota," and "lift the cap." Taking his words literally, it would seem that Romney has signaled one facet of his immigration policy. We can only wait to see if this was really what he had in mind. Keep your ears open! --jcf
The Obama Administration today issued an Executive Order which would allow CERTAIN young undocumented young people to receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Los Angeles / Palm Springs immigration attorneys Fong & Aquino have counseled thousands of immigrants, and we know that many undocumented youth are eligible for work permits under this newly-announced program.
The details are not yet available, but the White House has said that the qualifications are:
* Arrived in the USA before age 16;
* Resided in the USA since 15 June 2007;
* Education. Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a general education development certificate, or are honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;
* Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety; and
* Age. Are not above the age of thirty.
Each applicant must provide PROOF of all of these items.
Details of how and where to apply are not yet available. Check back to this blog. We will provide more information as soon as it is available. If you wish to discuss your immigration situation, please contact us at +1.323.769.8187. --jcf
A new H-1B quota update was released today from USCIS. The H-1B cap numbers as of May 4, 2012 are as follows:
Usage is steady, but there is still time to have an H-1B petition prepared and filed. Consult with the business immigration attorneys at Fong & Aquino today. ---ecf
H-1B quota numbers released today show that as of April 20, 2012 cap eligible petitions amounted to:
A collective sigh of relief for all those who are still job seeking and/or just beginning OPT employment as the H-1B cap seems to filling more slowly than in the first few days of the filing period. But as I speculated in a previous entry, we may see a spike in usage once new graduates in the following months become eligible to submit an H-1B petition.
I have also blogged about the retrogression which is hitting the employment-based 2nd preference category for Chinese and Indian nationals. US Dept of State has confirmed recently that the annual limit for those country nationals has been reached. USCIS cannot then grant anymore adjustments of status applications nor can the US Embassies abroad process any additional immigrant visas for Chinese and Indian nationals in the category of EB-2. Please continue to read our blog for more information regarding the H-1B quota and visa bulletin news. ---ecf
The H-1B quota count came out again yesterday. USCIS released the following quota numbers:
This tells us that those petitioners and employees who had a job in hand by April 1, did not delay in getting their petitions submitted once the filing period started. However, this may be good news for those who are still job searching, preparing petitions, or negotiating their H-1b petitions with employers. Usage seems to be slowing, but a word of caution that the numbers can surge upwards again once new graduates firm up job offers come May and June. Best of luck to those making applications. Call the attorneys at Fong & Aquino for your consultation on an H-1B petition. ---ecf
USDOS issued a reminder that visa fees changed last Friday, April 13. For those of you who have paid an immigrant visa fee before April 13, the fee is likely to have decreased. But you won't get a refund for it!
IF you have paid a visa fee prior to April 13 and the visa fee has now increased, you won't have to pay the difference as long as the visa interview takes place BEFORE June 12, 2012.
Retrogression has hit the EB-2 preference categories for India and China. USDOS released the May 2012 visa bulletin showing EB-2 priority dates of August 15, 2007 for both countries. The EB-3 priority dates have moved forward about one month, with the exception of India which forward about a week to September 8, 2002. Families with dependents who will age out at age 21 should call the attorneys at Fong & Aquino to talk about options now. ---ecf
The family-based visa bulletin shows slow movement as well:
Last week, I reported that the H-1B cap count was pretty high considering the quota had only been open for 3 days of filing. Today, the CIS released a more accurate count which separates the Bachelor's and Master's cap, the latter of which is nearly half used.
There's no doubt now that the H-1B quota will close much earlier this year. If you need to submit an H-1B application this year, call the attorneys at Fong & Aquino for a consultation. ---ecf
Starting April 13, 2012, visa processing fees will increase. The fees for most nonimmigrant visa applications and Border Crossing Cards will increase but we will see a decrease in all immigrant visa processing fees.
- Petition-based visas: H, L, O, P, Q, R will increase from $150 to $190
- Visitor, student, exchange visitor and journalist visas: B, F-1, J-1, M-1, I visas will increase from $140 to $160
- Treaty investor and treaty trader visas: E-1, E-2 will decrease from $390 to $270
- Border crossing cards will increase: BCCs $140 to $160
- Fiance(e) visas: K visas to decrease from $350 to $240
- Immediate relative and family preference applications will decrease from $330 to $230
- Employment-based applications will increase from $720 to $405
The first H-1B quota count for the first three days of the filing period tell us that H-1B usage is up. It's still too early to know how long it will last, but we should all keep in mind that it does take time to prepare a thorough H-1b petition and that just rushing to file petition can backfire on you if the case is not well prepared and you are not prepared for a Request for Evidence (RFE). In 2011, many people were surprised to see an increase in RFEs and denials. Call the attorneys at Fong & Aquino for a consultation on your H-1B. ---ecf
The immigration attorneys at Fong & Aquino -- with clients from the Coachella Valley and Palm Springs, to Southern California and Los Angeles, and throughout the world -- have been closely watching the implementation of the prosecutorial discretion policy as it affects gay men, lesbians, and persons in nontraditional family relationships.
As readers of this blog may recall, in the latter half of 2011, the Obama administration instructed its enforcers of the immigration laws (also known as the Immigration and Customs Enforcement branch of the Department of Homeland Security) to consider exercising its discretion to dismiss "low priority" deportation and removal cases. The "Morton Memo" indicated that the following criteria may be viewed as positive factors:
Circumstances of arrival - especially if the person came to the US as a child
Pursuit of education - if they have graduated from high school in the United States and/or are pursuing higher education
U.S. Military service
Ties to the U.S., including family relationships
Pregnant or nursing women
Age, especially for minors and the elderly
If the person is a primary caretaker of another person with a severe illness or disability
Persons who are likely to be granted temporary or permanent status because they are an asylum seeker, victim of domestic violence, human trafficking, or other crime
In the months that have followed, many questions were raised and Immigration and Customs Enforcement continues to tweak the memo's implementation. However, one question that seems to be resolved is that the government appears to recognize that an individual in removal proceedings who is in a bona fide same-sex relationship may be deserving of prosecutorial discretion.
Earlier this month, a gay Costa Rican man was spared from deportation based in part due to his 2008 marriage to a U.S. citizen. Last year, an Immigration Judge in New Jersey granted a reprieve in the deportation proceedings against a Venezuelan man married to a U.S. citizen. However, the policy does not appear to be uniformly applied, as a couple in Philadelphia still faces the prospect of separation.
The immigration attorneys at Fong & Aquino cannot stress enough: This is not "amnesty." There is no new program for legalization here. The government is not providing any lawful permanent resident status or employment authorization. However, in some circumstances, the Government IS viewing a same-sex marriage as a positive factor and allowing some non-traditional families to stay together inside the United States.
If you are a gay man or lesbian or in a nontraditional family relationship, or if you or a loved one is facing the prospect of removal from the USA, you should consult with the immigration attorneys at Fong & Aquino. We have offices in Los Angeles and Palm Springs. Attorneys at our firm have served the gay and lesbian community with pride for over a quarter of a century. --jcf & ra