Articles Posted in Family-based visas

nextArrow.pngAfter the historic 2013 decision by the Supreme Court of the United States in US v. Windsor (570 US ___ ), many same-sex couples got married. This enabled a US citizen to petition successfully for a foreign spouse and for that spouse to get Legal Permanent Resident status, the so-called “green card.” Our offices in Hollywood, Pasadena, and Palm Springs has handled many, many of these cases, all successfully.

To ensure that green cards are not obtained through false marriages, the Immigration Marriage Fraud Act (IMFA) requires a couple to file Form I-751 Petition to Remove Condition on Residence if the couple was married for less than two years on the day the green card was granted.

green-card_frontonly-300x189.jpgIf you received your green card within the last two years based on marriage to a US citizen or green card holder, and if you wish check to see whether you are required to file the I-751, look at your green card. Under “Category,” if you see CR or CR-1 or CR-6 — if the two letters are CR, then you must file the I-751 before your green card expires. If you see CR-1 or CR-6 and your green card has already expired, seek legal assistance immediately.

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transgender.gif There has been a great deal of recent internet discussion about Bruce Jenner’s transition to a new identity as Caitlyn. I want to congratulate Caitlyn Jenner and address some questions about transgender people and immigration. There has been a small flood of calls today at both the Pasadena and Palm Springs offices of the immigration law offices of Fong & Aquino, in response to the Vanity Fair cover photo and article introducing Caitlyn.

In the bad old days, before Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States in the 2013 landmark case of US v Windsor, same-sex marriages were not recognized under Federal law. If two men wanted to marry — even if their marriage could be legally performed in, say, Canada or Massachusetts — the US government refused to recognize that marriage, and no Federal benefits would attach to that relationship. This included a US citizen wanting to obtain legal resident status (the so-called “green card”) for a foreign spouse. A same-sex couple was not recognized, and no green card was possible.

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fingers crossed.jpegPresident Obama’s executive order to provide relief to undocumented immigrants opens up a new opportunity for many who had no options. However, whenever the immigration laws change, it also creates a chance for unlicensed notaries public, unscrupulous “immigration advisors,” and others who see an opportunity to cheat hard-working people. In my offices in Pasadena and Palm Springs, I hear stories all the time about how a notary charged a fortune and did nothing. Even more disturbing, people in the C oachella Valley seeking visa and immigration service and assistance have told me of persons who have provided harmful, incorrect information.

In many of these cases, the agency or advisor may be “accredited” by the Board of Immigration Appeals, but in fact, the consultant’s lack of knowledge about immigration law is staggering. Several clients have come to me with cases that have been MADE WORSE.

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Obama PrezOrder.jpegWith President Obama’s announcement of executive action on immigration issues, the phone has been ringing constantly at both the Pasadena and Palm Springs offices. Fong & Aquino has fielded over 50 telephone inquiries this morning alone.

Although the President announced the executive action yesterday, immigration lawyers are still studying the EXACT requirements and details of the presidential order. It is a very complex, wide-ranging set of orders. I will be posting more information in the coming days.

This is a hopeful development, but it is new. DO NOT try to travel outside the USA at this time. CHECK WITH AN ATTORNEY before filing any papers with the immigration authorities. Remember that many unlicensed paralegals will try to encourage you to sign up with them: PLEASE BE CAREFUL. If you have any questions about your eligibility, or if you’re interested in applying for a benefit under the executive order, please contact a competent immigration attorney.

The tidal wave of the first same-sex marriage (SSM) cases has passed, and I’d like to share some very brief observations. Fong & Aquino, with offices Hollywood and Palm Springs, fielded over 150 inquiries about SSM and has undertaken representation for some 100 cases this year. Some things I’ve noticed:

* Officers are as interested in how the couple met in the case of same-sex couples, as they are for opposite-sex couples. They have even asked the name of the WEBSITE where some couples have met.

* Some officers are puzzled about why some family members might not know about the marriage.

Rainbow yes.pngOn Tuesday, 26 June 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States overturned the constitutionally discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). A US citizen or Legal Permanent Resident may now submit an immigration petition for a same-sex spouse.  This is historic news and a true change in the way immigration law will be applied to the community of immigrants. The telephone has not stopped ringing at either the Palm Springs office or the Los Angeles.

Even as we consider moving forward for the paperwork to unite our families, some things to keep in mind.

Among the key requirements is MARRIAGE. Civil unions, domestic partnerships, civil registrations, PACS, and other forms of “marriage lite” are NOT recognized. Only marriage: plain, old-fashioned, garden-variety marriage. The list of jurisdictions where same-sex marriages are currently permitted includes New York, Washington state, Massachusetts, and nine other jurisdictions plus the District of Columbia; and Argentina, France, Canada, South Afrika, and a significant number of other nations. A good list can be found here.

Kiwi-300x300.jpgAs an immigrant advocate for gay and lesbian couples, I regularly receive calls at my Los Angeles and Palm Springs offices about whether same-sex marriage is available in x, y, or z country of the world. The legislature of New Zealand yesterday approved same-sex marriage. The measure must be given royal assent by the Queen’s representative, the Governor-General. This assent is typically automatic, a formality.

The number of countries which now or are on the verge of legalizing same-sex marriage is growing week by week. Pretty soon, it will cease to be news for me to post on this blog. However, please keep in mind that the United States’ Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) STILL denies recognition of same-sex marriages for any US government benefits.

It is NOT YET the time to file a green card application (immigrant visa application) for your same-sex spouse.

dogs-hearing-by-Muffet.jpgYes, yes, yes. Some information about the proposed Comprehensive Immigration Reform was released today.

As an immigration lawyer with over 30 years of experience, my phones here in Los Angeles and in the Palm Springs office have been ringing off the hook. I already have over 100 emails from France and the UK. The message is always the same, “J Craig Fong, is there anything for me in the new immigration law?” Everyone wants to know the recently-released details for the proposed Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR). Enough! Assez! ¡Basta!

FIRST: I am studying and thinking about the proposal now.

champagne-popping.gifI wrote a few weeks ago that the French National Assembly voted to approve same-sex marriage. Today, the French Senate passed a bill approving same-sex marriage, also. In the coming weeks, the two bills will undergo a “second reading” to reconcile minor differences in language. It is expected that the final bill will pass and same-sex marriage could be a reality throughout France by mid-Summer.

Yesterday, I noted that the Legislature of Uruguay also passed a same-sex marriage bill, and early in February, the United Kingdom was moving in the same direction.

In my work as an immigration lawyer and advocate on gay and lesbian issues, clients always ask me whether a legal marriage in, say, Canada or Netherlands would qualify a foreigner to apply for US Legal Permanent Residence through a petition by a US citizen spouse. At the present time, even with so many countries of the world recognizing and approving same-sex marriages, the United States still labors under the effects of §3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which prohibits the US from granting any benefits, including green cards, based on a same-sex marriage.

uruguay-gay-flag-360x222.pngA large majority of the Uruguay Legislature today approved a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. The bill has the support of the country’s president, José Mujica, who has said that he will sign the bill in the next two weeks. Uruguay is the second country in Latin America (the other is Argentina) to legalize same-sex marriage, the third to do so in the Western Hemisphere (the other is Canada), and the twelfth nation to do so in the world. By some reports, marriages could begin as soon as July 2013.

Which brings us to the question: when will the USA take this step?

In our Federal system, states have determined individually the rules regarding the issuance of marriage licenses. Nine states, plus the District of Columbia, current permit same-sex marriage. The recently-argued case of Hollingsworth v. Perry places the question squarely before the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). However, it is not clear to me that SCOTUS will make a broad ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. It seems more likely that SCOTUS will simply take the view the each state is entitled to determine the issue for itself. In other words, SCOTUS will probably not announce a broad, universal right to same-sex marriage throughout the USA. They could, but I view the prospect as unllikely. Finally, SCOTUS could avoid the question entirely by saying that the Hollingsworth case should not have been brought to the Supreme Court in the first place. A decision is expected before 30 June 2013.