Articles Posted in Entry & Exit Issues

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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.

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.

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.

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Time to apply? Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Syrians in the US! The USCIS has just announced that Syria will now be a designated country for temporary protected status. Due to the political instability in Syria, Syrians who are now in the United States will soon be able to apply for TPS which will allow them to be granted employment authorization and for extensions of the TPS designation is extended for Syria. The initial TPS designation will be for 18 months. USCIS has instructed applicants NOT to submit applications yet but applications may be prepared now in anticipation of more guidance next week. Remember that TPS is not automatic and applicants will have to show their eligibility, and background checks will still be conducted of all applicants. Those who will be found ineligible are those who have multiple convictions or other factors but certain noncriminal and non-security grounds can be waived. If you are interested in applying for TPS, call Fong & Aquino for a consultation. —ecf

Yes No.jpgImmigration law clients of Fong & Aquino have been calling us at both our Los Angeles and Palm Springs offices to inquire whether they can travel in and out of the USA using documents scanned onto their iPads, iPhones, and other smart devices.

In the first week of January, articles appeared on NBC, ABCNews, and DigitalJournal, and other sites about a Canadian man who was attempting to cross the land border to deliver Christmas gifts to family and friends in Vermont, USA. He had apparently forgotten his passport at his home in Montréal, Québec. When he got to the US Port of Entry (POE), so goes the story, he pulled out his iPad and showed the border guard his scanned Canadian Passport. (The man carries scanned documents, in case he should lose his documents while traveling.) According to the story, the border guard considered the matter and finally let the man cross the border.

It would be nice to think that border crossing cards, passports, visas, and other paperwork can now be scanned and put on our smart devices in lieu of carrying them. Nothing could be further from the truth.

stairway.jpgThe US Government recently announced that NSEERS registration is no longer necessary. Like many other immigration law firms, Fong & Aquino of Los Angeles has numerous clients from countries in which Islam is the predominant religion. The National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) was implemented in 2001. NSEERS required the citizens of certain Islamic countries who are visiting the USA to undergo special treatment and registration upon entry to and exit from the USA. Many Fong & Aquino clients in Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Palm Springs, and Las Vegas were especially impacted by NSEERS.

Persons born in or citizens of Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen were all subject to NSEERS arrival-departure control.

Implemented in the wake of the attacks of 9/11/2001, the NSEERS program was designed to record the arrival, stay, and departure of certain individuals from countries chosen based on an analysis of perceived national security threats. Because the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has now implemented automated systems that capture arrival and departure information for persons of all nationalities — that includes citizens of the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave (Americans) — the NSEERS registration is no longer required.

plane+jetway.jpgRecently, I toured the Federal Inspections area at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). As an attorney affiliated with Fong & Aquino in Los Angeles, I routinely get questions from clients about “what happens to me when I land after my international flight? What will the procedures be like for me?”

Although my visit was to LAX, it is fair to say that the same immigration procedures and data bases are in place at all international airports in the Southern California region: Orange County, San Diego, Ontario, Palm Springs, and other international airports nationwide.

Every day, thousands of people pass through the Tom Bradley International Terminal and the other international arrival terminals at LAX. After deplaning and waiting in the seemingly interminable queues, most passengers will only see one immigration officer. Then they will collect their luggage and see a customs officer. And then, they will go up a ramp where they are greeted by a smiling photo of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa welcoming them to the United States.

Thumbprint.jpgLos Angeles-based immigration attorneys at Fong & Aquino have received a recent string of consultations from the Palm Springs and Inland Empire area involving the immigration consequences of drug convictions.

One individual is a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) who was convicted in 2000 for possession of drug paraphernalia. The conviction did not come to the government’s attention until the gentleman returned from a vacation abroad and he re-entered the United States. The Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) has placed him into removal proceedings, charging that he had been convicted of a controlled substance offense.

Another man recently walked in with a Notice to Appear in which the DHS alleged that he entered the United States in 1965. “That’s wonderful!”, I thought, “I’ve got one of the few people in America that is eligible for registry.” My excitement waned when I discovered that the man had a conviction for possession of drugs in the 1980s.