Articles Posted in Filing Applications & Petitions

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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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.

Some highlights of the President’s order:

(a) Work permits for certain highly-skilled workers and their spouses, as well as students studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

(b) Clarify and improve the ability to travel for those who are waiting for Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) status, including those who are here on Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

(c) Legal status for the spouses and children of US armed forces service members.

(d) Implement new priorities to deport or remove criminal immigrants, while minimizing deportation of non-criminal family members.

(e) Strengthen border security and safety, and increase and reallocate resources for border interdiction.

(f) Expand the eligibility for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), to permit more young undocumented high school graduates to get work permits. New DACA work permits will be valid for 3 years, instead of the current 2 years.

(g) Create a Deferred Action program for Parents of US citizens and LPRs who have been in the USA for more than five years. To qualify, applicants will need to register with the government, pay back taxes, undergo fingerprinting and a background check, and pay application fees.

Please check back here in the coming days, for more information, as we learn the details of the new program. If you would like to set up an appointment, feel free to contact the office. –j

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.

Here in California, Gov. Jerry Brown has ordered the state to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples as soon as the stay is lifted on the lower court order. This should happen within about 30 days.

For immigration purposes, the marriage must be legal where it was celebrated. As long it is as it is legal where it was performed, it can be used for legal permanent resident (“green card”) purposes. Processing time is currently about four to six months, from the time of the application until the interview in Los Angeles or Riverside California. For those interviewing outside the United States, at US embassies and consulates, the process will take approximately 8 months, start to finish.  Fiancé(e) cases are a bit more complex and will take an additional few weeks.

Not surprisingly, all of the other immigration law issues, such as criminal records, financial sponsorships, prior deportations, unlawful status, and so on, still apply to same-sex couples, so it would be wise to set up a time to chat as soon as possible with an experiences immigration attorney.

After 30 years of counseling and advising couples from the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender communities, it is thrilling to be able to counsel our community through this momentous change and opportunity in the law.

This has been a long time coming. If you or anyone you know might benefit from the court ruling, please do not hesitate to contact the office. Meetings can be arranged at either the Los Angeles office or the office in Palm Springs.

Los Angeles Office:
6255 W Sunset Blvd, Ste 915
Los Angeles, CA 90028-7410

Palm Springs Office
777 E Tahquitz Canyon, Ste 328
Palm Springs, CA 92262

The contact phone is the same for both offices. Please feel free to give us a call (323.769.8187) to set up an appointment as soon as possible. Best and warmest regards!

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.

For some people who do indeed need the waiver — if they overstayed or entered without any papers — they should take a look at my blog from earlier this month.

If you have questions about whether you or a relative might need an I-601 or an I-601A waiver, it is very important to consult with a competent immigration attorney. –jcf

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:
* 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.

Needed documents include:
* birth certificate * two passport-size photos * high school and/or university transcript — diplomas are helpful, too
If you have questions about the DACA program, please feel free to contact me at my office. –jcf

Nation of Imm.jpgFor over 10 years, immigrants and their families have come to Fong & Aquino and asked me about any possible changes to the immigration law that will help them. I hear, from clients in Los Angeles, Palm Springs, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, and many other places that they need some change in the immigration law to allow them to stay in this country and pursue their dreams, work productively, be free from persecution, and most importantly, to be united with their families.

For the first time since 1990, a major change in the immigration law may be coming.

You probably already know that the US Congress has been deadlocked for over 4 years, with the members (mostly) of one political party refusing to cooperate with the White House. As a result, a Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) bill has never been seriously discussed. With the results of the recent re-election of President Barack Obama, and (many) members of the Republican party realizing that it is in their best interest to help immigrants, CIR may be on its way. What will it do?

No one knows!

So why am I writing this blog?

For the next few months, you will be reading many ideas, proposals, suggestions, conditions, demands, arguments, and so on about CIR. For right now, you need to know that NOTHING has been decided. Most immigration law observers believe that we will have some real, concrete details before the end of February. Some possibilities:

* A pathway to legalization, or an earned path to residency, for those undocumented people who are already here. This possibility is likely to have a requirement for paying back taxes, paying a fine, and learning English or taking a basic English test. We do not know any more right now.

* A category of immigration for the same-sex couples, where one partner is a US citizen and the other is a foreigner. This possibility is likely to require proof that the couple has been in an exclusive, emotionally inter-dependent relationship for a minimum period of time — likely, two years. We do not know any more right now.

* A large database of all persons eligible to work in the USA. In order for ANYone get get a job, employers may be asked to register with or check this database to verify that employees are legally eligible to work in the USA. Will they do such checking for foreigners only, or will this include US citizens? We do not know any more right now.

* A big push for even stronger border control, both at the Southern Border with México, the Northern Border with Canada, and at all airports. This might include enhanced exit control, also, to record not only who enters the USA and when, but also who exits. We do not know any more right now.

Remember: nothing has been decided right now. There is no new law right now. You do not need to register. You do not need to sign up. You do not need to file any form right now.

There are many notarios and others who are not licensed to practice law. In order to get money from you, they will try to scare you into thinking that you might do something now in order to preserve an immigration benefit. Please remember: there is NO new law right now.

Good news is coming. Be patient.

If you have questions, if you would like to consult with me, please feel free to give me a call, and I would be happy to discuss your situation or that of your family. –jcf

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.

Law offices change forms for many reasons. Eileen and I have parted as friends and colleagues. If for any reason you have questions about your case with the former office of Fong & Chun, llp, you are free to contact either one of us. We are now — as we always were before — committed to high quality immigration law work, where each case is treated individually and with respect for your family, your business, and your concerns. –jcf

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;
* 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