puerto-rico-flag.gifAll birth certificates issued by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico prior to 1 July 2010 have been made invalid. Persons born in Puerto Rico are US citizens, and the attorneys at Fong & Aquino are seeing more and more Puerto Ricans in Los Angeles and Palm Springs who wish to petition relatives.

The Vital Statistics and Records Office of the Commonwealth is now issuing new, more secure birth documents. On 30 September 2010, US Citizenship and Immigration Services stopped accepting Puerto Rican birth certificates issued before 1 July 2010. A birth certificate is necessary for immigration purposes to establish that the petitioner or applicant is a US citizen.

Natives of Puerto Rico may request a new birth certificate on line or through the mail. –jcf

This just in:

Regular cap count is at approximately 41, 900 and the advanced degree cap has reached approximately 15,400.

Looks like the advanced degree cap is soon to close, but perhaps the regular cap will still be available until the end of the year as it was last year. Time will tell… –ecf

Now is that unfortunate time of year where the attorneys at Fong & Aquino start receiving phone calls from H-1B applicants who have received denials of their H-1B petitions. If someone has a denied H-1B, re-filing may be an option, but a previous denial definitely presents some challenges since any applicant must reveal previous denials in subsequent applicants. As I blogged about last year, there are many reasons that USCIS can find to justify a denial, however, many of the H-1B denials that I review could have been prevented if employers and applicants had a better understanding of what makes a successful H-1B case.

H-1B is a program for professional workers, and USCIS takes a very common sense approach to determining whether a job is considered a specialty occupation. First the USCIS reviews whether the nature of the job duties would normally require at least a Bachelor’s degree level of training or knowledge, and secondly, whether requiring a Bachelor’s degree for such position is normal to the that particular industry. Finally, USCIS will consider whether the applicant’s major of study is actually applicable to the job at hand. Beyond this, USCIS relies on caselaw, statutory definitions and guidance from the US Department of Labor to determine whether your case is really H-1B caliber or not. And if so, USCIS will also make a determination whether there is a real job offer in hand and whether an applicant is qualified for such position.

At Fong & Aquino, we don’t use cookie-cutter solutions in helping H-1B employers submit their applications to USCIS. We use a individualized and highly tailored approach to understanding the job offer, the company, and the applicant’s qualifications. If you are interested in a consultation, contact us today. —ecf

Dollar Funnel.jpgThe US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced changes in their filing fees, effective 23 November 2010.

The immigration lawyers at Fong & Aquino are dismayed that the cost of immigration benefits is rising the way the costs of making Hollywood movies is going up here in Los Angeles. Many clients can scarcely afford to pay the fees already being levied. One consolation is that USCIS has decreased some fees, even as it has increased others. In addition, USCIS has expanded the situations for which a fee waiver can be requested.

Some examples:

Everyone’s been talking about immigration reform, what would it look like, when will it happen. Just this week, Senators Menendez and Leahy introduced the Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) Act of 2010 in Congress. Here are some key provisions of what is proposed in the bill:

  • Increased Border Enforcement including the hiring of 1,000 new ICE investigators each fiscal year, 250 new CBP officers at new ports of entry, and $300 million towards infrastructure improvements along the Northern and Southern borders
  • Increased Interior Enforcement aimed at the prevention of unauthorized entries and removal with fines and criminal penalties for reentry of previously removed aliens
  • Hotel.jpegParis Hilton — heiress, bon-vivant, and media magnet — was denied entry to Japan today due to her recent conviction for possession of cocaine in Las Vegas, Nevada. The immigration lawyers here at Fong & Aquino in the Hollywood area of Los Angeles often hear from immigrants and visitors who want to come to the USA after having been convicted under, or having admitted to having committed a violation of, any law or regulation relating to a controlled substance.

    Although Japan’s immigration exclusion for drug offenders is strict, the US has similar restrictions, and any alien who has committed an offense more serious than possession of ≤ 30 grams of marijuana should NOT expect an easy time of getting into the USA. A waiver is available for very, very limited cases. We cannot be very encouraging to ANYone who has a prior drug conviction or admission.

    Those who have been “cautioned” for marijuana possession in certain countries such as the UK and Australia should know that such “cautions” typically include the perpetrator’s admission of the underlying facts of the incident (e.g., the possession). Therefore, the perpetrator has admitted to having committed the violation, even if there was never a trial, a conviction, or other citation. –jcf

    Still not too late to apply for an H-1B. New quota figures as of September 10, 2010:

    Out of the 65,000 cases that can be approved for H-1B this year, 37,400 cases have been receipted by USCIS for the regular Bachelor’s degree H-1B quota. This is up from 36,600 cases which were received since September 3, 2010.

    Approximately 13,700 cases have been receipted by USCIS for the advanced degree H-1B quota, a slight increase of about 300 cases filed since September 3, 2010 when approximately 13,400 cases had been received.

    177934_bus_queue_v.jpg
    Major news for relatives of legal permanent residents who have been patiently waiting for their petitions to become current. The Department of State reported in the September 2010 visa bulletin that applicants who are spouses or children of greencard holders (filed as late as January 1, 2010) can now be processed for greencards. This is true for applicants from all countries except Mexico and the Dominican Republic, whose priority dates aren’t far behind either: January 1, 2009.

    What is a a “priority date,” you ask? A “priority date” is a legal term of art that can be exceedingly hard to explain (especially in a blog), but I’ll try. Let’s start with basics. There is a quota on how many immigrants can come legally to the country per year. Imagine the quota like it is a long line of people lining up for a greencard. The people at the front of the line are those whose relative petitions were filed earliest, ie those with the earliest “priority date.” A priority date is established on the date that your petition is received by the USCIS. Of course, the earlier your priority date, the sooner you can later ask for greencard status. Generally, priority dates always move forward, but these dates can also go backwards, and if applications aren’t received by USCIS before this “retrogression” happens, applicants are back to the waiting game.

    In the past month, the (F2A) priority date in the the family-based second preference category (ie for spouses and children of greencard holders) advanced from March 2009 to January 2010! This has made an incredible difference to those who have been waiting to be reunited with their spouses and children, rather than expecting a year or more of wait, this category of new immigrants can now start processing their greencard applications. If you would like assistance in making sure that your application can be made as quickly as possible, contact the attorneys at Fong & Aquino before those dates start floating backwards again. –ecf

    Yet another update to the H-1B quota, also known as the Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 H-1B cap.

    Approximately 34,900 cases have been receipted by USCIS for the regular Bachelor’s degree H-1B quota.

    Approximately 13,000 cases have been receipted by USCIS for the advanced degree H-1B quota open to applicants who have earned Master’s or higher degrees from US colleges and universities.

    Elin Nordegren broke her silence today and gave her side of the story today telling the world how shocked and embarrassed she was by Tiger’s infidelity. She also defended the marriage, saying that the marriage was real, not orchestrated for the cameras and sponsors.

    In our practice at Fong & Aquino, we have seen many marriages, like Elin and Tiger’s which were entered into for love, completely genuine marriages and yet within years (sometimes a lot sooner), the marriage goes awry. For those immigrants whose conditional greencards were based on marriages to US citizens, these men and women find themselves in a situation like Elin, telling their stories to the USCIS, actually defending themselves from deportation, that even though their marriage didn’t survive the test of time, it was not a marriage of convenience for immigration purposes.

    If a marriage fails anytime before someone naturalizes, a person who immigrated through marriage will later be summoned by the USCIS for an intense and very uncomfortable interview in order to maintain their permanent residency – even at the time of applying for citizenship. Such interviews can even occur years after the marriage and divorce, so recounting the facts of a relationship and providing the documentation to verify the facts of the courtship, the wedding or civil ceremony, then detailing the timeline of marriage, separation and divorce is more than just burdensome, it’s sometimes impossible. attorneys at Fong & Aquino have defended clients in such interviews, which can take several hours! Not to mention the legal briefing and the administrative review that can take months to years in the most complicated cases.