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November 15, 2013

USCIS Asked to Designate TPS for Philippines -- under consideration

monster-typhoon-philippines-haiyan_73273_600x450.jpg

The Immigration Law Offices of J Craig Fong 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 ยง244(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.

Consultations are available in both the Los Angeles and Palm Springs offices. Call for an appointment: 323.769.8187. --jcf

February 6, 2013

UK Commons Moves to Approve Same-Sex Marriage

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

February 4, 2013

National Visa Center I-601A Letter Misleads Many Immigrants

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 Law Offices of J Craig Fong 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

February 1, 2013

DACA: Work Permits for Childhood Arrivals - Still Available

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 the immigration Law Offices of J Craig Fong 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

January 7, 2013

Illegal Presence Waiver Can Now be Processed in USA

Alt Route Waver.jpgOver many years, the immigration Law Offices of J Craig Fong 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.

This I-601A procedure is only available to Immediate Relatives of a US Citizen: immigrants who are the spouse, parent, or minor child of an American Citizen. This procedure is not available if you fall into another family-based or employment-based category for immigration.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services will be announcing more information about how this process will work in the next few weeks. Cases can be filed beginning in March 2013.

If you believe you might qualify to process the I-601A illegal presence waiver using the new procedures inside the USA, contact me at 323.769.8187. --jcf

January 1, 2013

Law Offices of J Craig Fong

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, "Law Offices of J Craig Fong." 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

August 7, 2012

Border Guards Question US Citizens About Back Taxes

IRS.pngThe immigration lawyers at the Law Offices of J Craig Fong 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 the Law Offices of J Craig Fong. --jcf

June 29, 2012

Papers Needed for Deferred Action for Undocumented Young People

papers.jpgAt our offices in Los Angeles and in Palm Springs, the immigration attorneys at the Law Offices of J Craig Fong 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 the Law Offices of J Craig Fong: +1.323.769.8187 --jcf

June 15, 2012

FLASH: Work Permits Possible for SOME Undocumented Youth

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 The Law Offices of J Craig Fong 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

June 23, 2011

Filing I-130 Family Petitions from Outside the USA

mailbox2.jpgBeginning 15 August 2011, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will change the way I-130 Petition for Alien Relative is filed. Although The Law Offices of J Craig Fong are an immigration law firm in Los Angeles, we represent clients on every continent of the globe (except Antarctica), and we have filed I-130 Petitions all over the world.

Beginning on 15 August, I-130s from Petitioners living outside the USA may be filed at the USCIS Chicago Lockbox facility. Petitioners who live outside the USA in a country where there is a USCIS office still have the option to file the I-130 at that USCIS office. --jcf

June 17, 2011

NSEERS Registration No Longer Necessary

stairway.jpgThe US Government recently announced that NSEERS registration is no longer necessary. Like many other immigration law firms, The Law Offices of J Craig Fong 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 The Law Offices of J Craig Fong 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.

Quoting DHS, "the underlying NSEERS regulations will remain in place in the event a special registration program is again needed." --jcf

June 10, 2011

Arrival Procedures - Secondary Inspection and Criminal Records

plane+jetway.jpgRecently, I toured the Federal Inspections area at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). As an attorney affiliated with the immigration law offices of J Craig Fong 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.

I also talked to officers in an office in the corner of the terminal which handles "Admissibility Review," also commonly known as "secondary inspection." Because of the volume of international passengers that LAX handles, the primary inspection officer only has a few minutes -- probably less than 5 -- to determine whether to permit an individual to enter into the United States. Instead of tying up an officer's station, questionable individuals will continue the process at the secondary inspection area.

Maybe there is an error on a visa. Or perhaps the name on the passport doesn't match the visa. Or sometimes, an individual doesn't realize that his or her green card expired during the trip abroad. According to Customs and Border Protection officials, most individuals -- upwards of 90% -- who are sent to secondary inspections are permitted eventually to enter the United States after CBP has asked a number of follow-up questions.

A word of caution about criminal convictions: the records of older criminal convictions have now been computerized and are now available to CBP inspectors. This includes criminal convictions in the 50 US states, as well as many countries which have made their criminal records available to the Department of Homeland Security.

In particular, if you are a lawful permanent resident who was convicted of a crime at some time in the past, your past ability to travel in and out of the United States was not because the government had forgotten about the conviction or forgiven you. It was because the CPB didn't previously know about the conviction. In 2010, the Department of Homeland Security initiated removal proceedings based upon one of our client's convictions that occurred in 1995.

The best way to avoid being escorted to secondary would be to steer clear of the following actions:

-- misrepresentations about your identity
-- using fraudulent travel documents
-- using a passport that does not belong to you
-- using a passport that has been manipulated or tweaked
-- using a visa that is fraudulent
-- traveling when you have an outstanding warrant for your arrest
-- a LPR returning to the United States after being convicted of certain criminal offenses
-- a LPR returning to the United States who may have indicia of abandoning his or her permanent resident status

You should consult with experienced counsel before you seek to enter or re-enter the United States. Doing so may help you prevent any surprises in the immigration inspection area. --ra

March 19, 2011

Expedited Processing for Japanese Nationals Affected by Earthquake and Tsunamis

The USCIS this week provided information on the types of immigration applications for Japanese nationals who are affected by disasters caused the earthquakes and tsunamis last week. In limited circumstances, the USCIS can expedite the processing of the following types of requests/cases:

  • requests for extensions or change of non-immigrant status even if the request is made after the applicant's stay has expired
  • re-parole of individuals who have already been granted parole by USCIS
  • expedited processing of advanced paroles
  • expedited adjudication and approval for requests for off-campus employment in the case of F-1 students suffering economic hardship
  • expedited employment authorization

  • If you or someone you know is eligible for these services, please contact the attorneys at Law Offices of J Craig Fong for assistance in making these applications to the USCIS. ---ecf

    March 11, 2011

    USCIS Announces Relief for Japanese and Other Nationals Stranded in US Because of Earthquake and Disaster Abroad

    seisomograph.jpgThe immigration lawyers at the Law Offices of J Craig Fong in Los Angeles have many, many Japanese clients. In response to the devastation caused by the earthquake around Sendai, Japan yesterday, the US Citizenship and Immigraiton Services (USCIS) issued an advisory to Japanese nationals and others who cannot return to their home countries due to earthquake and tsunami disruption in the Pacific region. This is of particular importance to those who are here on visitor visas (B-1 or B-2), visa waiver, or other non-immigrant visas such as H-1B, L-1A, L-1B, E-1, E-2, F-1, J-1, M-1, etc.

    From time to time, the US government permits citizens from certain countries to remain in the USA -- even after their visas or landing permits have expired -- due to emergency circumstances in the home country. This special designation -- which is called Temporary Protected Status (TPS) -- is made by the US government. At the present time, Japan has not yet been designated a TPS-eligible country by the US government.

    However, the USCIS advisory, issued at 5:35pm today advises that people should visit their local USCIS office if they have overstayed their I-94s or will become an overstay because they cannot now return to their homes in the Pacific. In certain cases, the USCIS may allow for an additional 30 days be granted in order to depart without facing unlawful presence or other serious immigration violation. USCIS will likely control such applications with high scrutiny and enforcement. We do not recommend that Japanese citizens go to USCIS to obtain assistance without first consulting an immigration attorney.

    Call the immigration attorneys at Law Offices of J Craig Fong. We are in the Hollywood area of Los Angeles. We can help you with this process. If needed, we can provide legal representation if you are facing overstay issues, unlawful presence, or other potential violations such as unauthorized employment because of the devastation in Japan and the Pacific. --ecf

    March 11, 2011

    Earthquake in Japan: Tsunami Warnings for Hawaii and West Coast

    Japan: an 8.9 earthquake has rocked Japan today, marking the most powerful earthquake in Japan's recorded history. This quake is the fifth most powerful in the world since 1900, says the U.S. Geologic Survey. Tokyo reports massive aftershocks. Narita Airport, Sendai Airport remain closed, although Haneda Airport has reopened already. The immigration attorneys at Law Offices of J Craig Fong who practice in business immigration, family-based immigration, removal defense and appellate work extend sympathy and concern to all our Japanese clients and those with family and friends abroad who are affected by this devastating disaster.

    Over the years, the immigration attorneys at Law Offices of J Craig Fong have worked proudly in the Japanese immigrant community, having represented multinational executives and managers for some of Japan's largest corporations, professors providing invaluable research and teaching in top U.S. universities, professional employees working in companies based in Little Tokyo and in Japanese American non-profit organizations, and of course, countless individuals and families of Japanese descent.

    With early reports of the death toll, the true damage the earthquake has caused remains unknown at this moment. We do know that this earthquake may cause tsunamis powerful enough to engulf or wash over small islands in the Pacific causing more damage and posing continued danger to those in the Pacific. For clients wishing to return to Japan in the weeks to come, please call the attorneys at Law Offices of J Craig Fong for guidance on how to check the US Department of State for travel warnings and other restrictions. ---ecf