The attorneys at Fong & Aquino have helped hundreds of legal immigrants seek citizenship over the years. Whether we have worked with you at a naturalization drive, through labor unions, or in our own offices, citizenship is the ultimate goal of most immigrants. Today, the government announced that cash assistance to elderly and disabled immigrants who were granted entry based on humanitarian reasons may lose benefits unless they have naturalization applications pending. Many of those affected are people who were granted asylum or refugee status.

Most immigrants are eligible for naturalization after a 3 or 5 year period after their initial residency period begins. Many immigrants delay applying for naturalization because they fear the English or history exams. While the naturalization exam can seem daunting, the government allows for applicants to re-take their exams if they fail the first time. Some immigrants who are long term residents may even take the examination in their native language, but many immigrants simply put off the naturalization process because it has become intimidating or costly. However, in most cases, an immigrant who truly desires to naturalize and is eligible to do so can make an application and be successful with the right type of support and preparation. Today’s announcement by the administration poses yet another reason for immigrants who have been putting off their citizenship application to call and find a qualified immigration attorney to help them with the process. Fong & Aquino encourages those eligible for naturalization make an application and realize their dreams of finally becoming US citizens. —ecf

As of August 6, 2010, approximately 28,500 regular H-1B cap cases have been receipted by USCIS and approximately 11,900 advanced degree cases. Keeping in mind that H-1B extensions and changes of employer petitions don’t count against the cap, initial H-1B applicants are in good shape this fiscal year since the quota is far from being exhausted. —ecf

Although the controversial Arizona immigration law will still go into effect tomorrow, portions of the law have been blocked by the Federal District Court Judge Susan Bolton. Judge Bolton has issued a preliminary injunction to “put on hold” the proposed part of the law that would require Arizona law enforcement to determine whether a person is here in the country legally or not. Mistaken arrests of US citizens have already been made since the law’s proposal.

The Court ruled in favor of the preliminary injunction primarily on federal preemption grounds, as our nation’s immigration law is a matter of federal jurisdiction. This means that immigration law is governed and enforced by the federal government, not by individual states in the union. It is expected that Arizona will appeal, allowing the Ninth Circuit to review the issue as the nation’s debate over immigration continues to roar. –ecf

Thanks to USCIS, we have four H-1B quota updates to report in the month of July 2010:

July 2, 2010: approximately 24,200 cap cases received; approximately 10,400 advanced degree cases received

July 9, 2010: approximately 24,800 cap cases received; approximately 10,600 advanced degree cases received

The attorneys at Fong & Aquino are often asked whether using a re-entry permit “guarantees” re-entry to the US after a prolonged absence. A lot of people seem to think that there is some guarantee that using the re-entry permit will ensure their safe return to the US. In most cases, this is true, but it’s important to remember that the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) can and now will often still interrogate returning permanent residents about their reasons for leaving the US for long periods of time, most especially, those trips outside the US that are more than 6 months.

Using a re-entry permit allows a permanent resident to ask for re-entry to the US, but it only ensures that the CBP cannot use the length of absence as the only reason for denying entry. If CBP finds that a person holding a re-entry permit may have been employed abroad, or took up formal residence abroad, CBP can refer an individual for removal proceedings or deferred inspection when CBP will conduct a more formal interview of the applicant for re-admission. This will give you, the applicant a chance to rebut any allegation that you have abandoned your US permanent residency. If you are facing an abandonment interview with CBP, you will have one chance to show that you are eligible to keep your status. Contact the attorneys at Fong & Aquino if you would like a consultation regarding your case. —ecf

As of July 9, 2010, approximately 24,800 H-1B petitions have been received. Our of the advanced degree cap, approximately 10,600 petitions have been receipted.

The numbers are very, very slowly creeping upwards. Naturally, the H-1B numbers are a sign of the slow economic times, and that the unemployment rate is still high. Anyhow looking to file an H-1B petition still has time on their side. —ecf

I-94W.pngThe US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has said that it will start phasing out use of the I-94W Arrival-Departure Card. Immigration lawyers at Fong & Aquino have been practicing law a very long time, and the I-94 is a venerable old immigration law fixture. It appears that DHS has decided to attune to the times, automating the gathering and review of biographic information about persons entering on the Visa Waiver program.

The Visa Waiver program allows nationals of certain countries to enter the USA without a visa, provided the entry is for touristic or non-employment business reasons. In the past, Visa Waiver entrants had to fill out the green I-94W card and present that card to a border guard at the Port of Entry (POE). Over a period of time, DHS will phase out the use of the I-94W, and a Visa Waiver entrant will simply show a passport at the POE, be photographed and fingerprinted, and then the passport will be franked (stamped). This new arrangement is similar to the pre-arrival gathering of information used by Australia’s “electronic visa” system. –jcf

butterfly cocoon.jpgOn the occasion of Pride Month, the US Department of State has announced a change in policy regarding the way that sex and gender reassignment are noted on US passports. The immigration Fong & Aquino, long-time advocates for gay and lesbian immigrants, receive questions regularly about how gender is reflected on official documents.

Effective today, a US citizen applying for a US passport may present a letter from a physician that the applicant has had “appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition,” and the new passport will be issued reflecting that new gender. A short-term passport can also be issued be those who are still transitioning.

If you have any questions about obtaining a US passport, please contact us. –jcf

USCIS updated the H-1B quota numbers again last week. Approximately 19,600 applications have been been received for the regular cap and approximately 8,200 have been received for the “master’s degree” or “advanced degree” cap.

The increase of 700 applications overall, in the past week shows that it’s still anyone’s game at this point. If you are a recent graduate and are hoping to find that job before your OPT expires, keep looking and keep in touch with Fong & Aquino. I have counseled many F-1 students here currently on OPT and they are awaiting job offers and we are ready to begin H-1B applications just as soon as the right job offer comes along…

It is anticipated that the H-1B season will last for months to come. Even if you are running out of OPT time and considering returning home, you should think about consulting with Fong & Aquino before you leave so that if and when a job offer can be made, you can be sure that you have counsel who knows you and your qualifications and is ready to work with your US employer. It’s not at all uncommon that attorneys at Fong & Aquino represent clients who are outside of the US at the time of their application. If you are leaving the country to avoid unlawful presence, but to keep all your options open for returning with work status, you want an advocate on your side before you leave the country. —ecf