Saturday, September 10, 2011

Citizenship Application - Engish Test

Here is a direct link to the study materials USCIS offers to prepare for the English test given during the citizenship interview.

USCIS Speaks on the Citizenship Application

In this link, USCIS talks about what to expect when a permanent resident applies for citizenship. It includes a link to the application form, a video on the interview, a link to a study guide for the English test, and a link to the 100 civics questions that USCIS draws from.

Citizenship Questions

This is a link to the 100 questions that USCIS will use in the naturalization interview. An applicant will be asked up to 10 questions, and must answer 6 correct.

Prosecutorial Discretion - How It Works

I was in Immigration Court on Thursday. A couple of cases, including my own, bought up the President's announcement concerning the new policy toward exercising prosecutorial discretion. Applications for prosecutorial discretion have to be made directly to the Chief Counsel's Office. So, in Washington, DC and Virginia, and alien would write directly to Rafael Choi, the Chief Counsel for this area. The application should contain all information necessary to convince the Chief Counsel to exercise his discretion not to seek removal of the alien. In the meantime, if there is no hope of any other ground of relief, ICE will not support release on bond.

In my case, the only relief we could request was voluntary departure. ICE would not agree to release on bond. Nor would ICE agree to voluntary departure with a voluntary departure bond. But, ICE did agree that we could apply for prosecutorial discretion even after the Judge issued the voluntary departure order.

Best practice, then, is to make the application before coming to Court, as an application for prosecutorial discretion will not be a basis for an Immigration Judge granting bond.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Has ICE Really Changed Its Policy?

Today, I am going to see if ICE will put its money where the President's mouth is. The President announced that ICE would focus its priorities on removing aliens with criminal records who are a danger to the public safety. This Wall Street Journal article discusses how the change in priority was due in part to the number of people being removed based solely on a minor traffic offense.

The White House posted the announcement on its official blog. The blog refers to ICE's exercise of prosecutorial discretion. A memorandum on the exercise of that discretion can be found with this link.

I have a client with a family in the United States, who was arrested for a traffic offense. He has no other criminal convictions. To date, ICE has refused his release on bond. I am renewing my request for his release today, and intend to renew it again when we have his Immigration Court date. We will see if the President is serious or just talk.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Obama Administration announced that it would allow more undocumented aliens stay in the country, and focus its deportation efforts on those with more serious criminal convictions. The Washington Post details the announcement in this article.

If this is true, it will be a major policy shift. Last year, after a tragic traffic accident in Northern Virginia involving an alien who was in removal proceedings but who had a temporary work permit, ICE adopted a harsh policy toward alien detained after traffic offenses. Under US immigration law, for example, a first time DUI is generally not a deportable offense. However, ICE was detaining people arrested for DUI (even before the arrest resulted in a conviction) and refusing to set a bond for release.

Later in the year, ICE was detaining people who were arrested for offenses as minor as driving without a license, and refusing to set bond for release. This was happening, even when the person had no criminal record, and when the person had a US citizen newborn baby whom he was supporting.

If this change in policy is true, it may perhaps open more doors of relief to aliens pulled over for minor traffic offenses.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Immigration Authorities Raided the University of Northern Virginia

Foreign students enrolled in the University of Northern Virginia should read this Washington Post article. Immigration authorities raided the school, taking computers. The school is unaccredited, which may raise the question with immigration authorities of whether the enrollments are legitimate.

Friday, February 18, 2011

H-1B Filing Date Approaching

The first day of filing an application for an H-1B specialty worker to begin work in fiscal year 2012 (starting on October 1, 2011) is April 1, 2011. A specialty worker is one in a profession that requires a minimum of a bachelor's degree. An H-1B visa permits a foreign worker to come to the United States to work for a U.S. employer for a temporary period of time. An H-1B can initially be approved for 3 years, and then extended for another 3 years.

Only 65,000 H-1B visas are available every year. In the past, all of the H-1Bs allotted for the year were claimed as of the first date of filing. Although, with the slower economy, in the past two years, H-1B visas were available through December.

With the economy on the rise, it is possible that firms will be hiring more foreign workers, and may claim the H-1Bs earlier.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Adopting a Foreign Relative

When a single parent cannot be responsible to raise a child, it is common for a family member to step-up and take responsibility. Many times, this is accomplished through an intra-family adoption. But, what if the child is in a foreign country, and the relative in the United States?

The immigration laws for adoptions involving a non-orphan, that is a child whose parents are still living, are complicated. This is because the US Government is attempting to protect from the situation where the adoption is a mere sham used to evade the immigration laws. But, this requires the adoptive parents to be careful in how they approach the adoption.

First, the adoption must take place before the child's sixteenth birthday. Next, the adoptive parent must live with the child for two years overseas. To meet the two year residency requirement, the adoptive parents cannot simply visit the child. That is, if the adoptive parent goes for a six month trip abroad to be with the child, but comes back to the United States for six months, that will not qualify as residence with the child.

This two year residency requirement is what normally prevents permanent residents from being able to adopt a foreign relative. Any trips overseas of six months or more are considered to show that the person abandoned his or her residency in the United States, unless the person obtains a re-entry permit. Even then, re-entry permits are only issued for two years at a time and cannot be renewed.

Another problem is where the biological parents live in the same household as the adopted child. Then, USCIS will require evidence to show that the adoptive parent is the actual decision-maker and takes responsibility for the day-to-day activities of the child. It will not be enough simply to show that the adoptive parent pays the bills. The adoptive parent must show that he or she is the primary caregiver in the child's life.

A mistake some people make is to think that just by adopting a minor, they can bring the child into the United States. The process, however, is much more complicated. If done improperly, the process may need to be started all over again. When the child is a teenager, there may not be time to lose.

For this reason, a person adopting a foreign born relative should consult with a knowledgeable attorney before going through with it. Only then can such a person create a plan to make sure that the immigration law is addressed, and the child can obtain a visa.