Articles Posted in Documentation

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Both Los Angeles and Palm Springs are popular destinations for visitors from all over the world.  Some visitors, from certain trusted countries, are allowed to visit the USA without a B-1/B-2 Visitor Visa.  At both our Pasadena and Palm Springs offices, we’ve gotten quite a few calls about a change that went into effect today.

Beginning 1 April 2016, citizens from Visa Waiver Program countries who wish to visit the USA without a visa must travel using an e-passport, a passport issued by the country of nationality that meets certain security standards.  An e-passport still looks like what you would expect a passport to be.  However, an e-passport is machine readable and has an RFID chip embedded into it, with digital information about the passport holder.  There are many fraud-resistent features built into these passports, such as images that change color and symbols that show up only under UV light.  To know if a passport is an e-passport, look on the front or back cover for the symbol shown on the graphic at the top of this little blog.

If you are a citizen of a Visa Waiver-eligible country, but you do not have an e-passport, you must contact the US Embassy in your country to obtain a B-1/B-2 visitor visa.  Border guards may deny you entry if you do not have the proper passport and could send you back on the next plane.  Alternatively, you should contact the passport authority in your country to obtain a new passport.

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Fong & Aquino has many, many clients from the Philippines, both at the Los Angeles office and the Palm Springs office. Last week, the Philippine Islands suffered catastrophic damage from the winds and rain of Typhoon Haiyan. The nation is only now beginning to get assistance to its stricken citizens, and the world is responding as well.

While the Philippines struggle to cope with the after-effects of one of the most powerful storms ever recorded on land, the United States can help in many ways, in addition to the aid that is already underway. One way we can help is to limit the strain on Philippine resources by designating the Philippines for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) under §244(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. This would allow Filipinos currently on temporary stay in the USA to remain here until the situation in their home country stabilizes. Please write to your Representative and Senators, and urge them to designate TPS protection for the Philippines.

Remember: TPS has not yet been approved for the Philippines. There is no program or benefit to apply for at this time. Please do not call the immigration office to ask, because there is no TPS yet for Philippines.

UK SSM.pngThe UK parliament yesterday approved a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. The legislative process is not yet complete, but the 400-175 vote in favor of the bill is a strong indication that the next vote in the Commons, and a vote in the House of Lords, will be a favorable one for gay men and lesbians who wish to marry in the UK.

Gay and lesbian Americans who may wish to marry a UK citizen must remember that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is still the law in the USA. This means that even though Her Majesty’s government may soon allow same-sex marriages, the US does not provide any benefits or recognition under US law based on a same-sex marriage. And that includes immigration benefits. As an immigration lawyer who has counseled members of the gay and lesbian community for many years, I wish I could say that our families are recognized by the US government, but for the moment, we must wait to see whether any upcoming changes in US immigration law will provide benefits to same-sex couples.

If you or your partner or spouse would like to discuss immigration options, I look forward to talking with you. –jcf

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:

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.

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;

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;