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Immigration Law Blog

Thursday, December 20, 2018

USCIS Expands Information Services Modernization Program to Key Field Offices

Please be advised that USCIS has begun expanding its Information Services Modernization Program across key field offices beginning November 13, 2018 to now include the Detroit office and the five Los Angeles District offices.  During the first quarter of FY 2019, USCIS will implement the program in the Great Lakes and San Francisco field offices and across all New York City area field offices (NYC (Manhattan), Queens, Brooklyn as well as Long Island and Newark).  In fact, it is expected that by the end of 2019, INFOPASS appointments will no longer be available at any local USCIS office.  Individuals living in the areas covered by the program can schedule an appointment by calling the USCIS National Customer Service Center at (800) 375-5283.

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Monday, December 17, 2018

Master Calendar Hearings

The first stage in the removal (deportation) of a foreign national is a Notice to Appear (NTA) at a Master Calendar Hearing.  The purpose of the hearing is not to reach a final decision on removal, but to obtain basic information about the case and create a schedule for it to proceed.  It also is an opportunity for the court to outline all of the legal rights available to the foreign national, including the right to answer charges, present evidence, examine witnesses and, if the respondent lacks counsel, make use of any free or low-cost legal service providers who may be available.

The Notice to Appear contains the date, time and location of the hearing, usually at least ten days later.  A foreign national (the "respondent") who receives a notice must attend in person, with or without an attorney.  Failure to attend, or even showing up late, can result in denial of an application and deportation "in absentia."  The respondent should bring the Notice to Appear and any official identification documents.  Family members can attend.

The Notice to Appear also contains allegations about the respondent's illegal status in the United States.  The respondent, with the help of an attorney if possible, should examine these allegations carefully and be prepared to deny them and correct any inaccuracies.

The Master Calendar Hearing itself is brief, though it may take hours for a case to be called.  When the respondent's name and Alien Registration Number are announced, the respondent and counsel, if any, appear before an Immigration Court Judge.  The court will generally provide an interpreter, if needed.

The judge may ask for basic information, such as name, address, and the languages the respondent speaks.  The judge then reviews the charges.  The respondent can deny some or all of the government's allegations and point out any factual errors regarding names, dates, places, or other details.  The respondent can designate—or refuse to designate— a "country of removal," i.e. where to be sent if deported.


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Monday, December 10, 2018

Should Employers Enroll in E-Verify? Pros and Cons

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, in partnership with the Social Security Administration (SSA), offers E-Verify to help employers instantly determine an employee's eligibility to work.  Initial confirmations and "Tentative Non Confirmations" are available in as little as three to five seconds.

The voluntary Internet-based program works by comparing the information from an employee’s Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, with Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records.  Instead of simply retaining I-9s on file in their own offices, employers who enroll in E-Verify must enter the I-9s of all new hires into the program's database.

There are both advantages and disadvantages to using E-Verify.  Employers must weigh each and its relevance to their circumstances.

Five Benefits of Signing Up for E-Verify

 • While E-Verify is generally voluntary, some states require employers to use E-Verify, and it is mandatory for some federal government contracts.

 • E-Verify could become mandatory nationwide.  Adopting it earlier affords employers more time to become familiar with it and adapt.

 • E-Verify helps companies avoid hiring and training a person who turns out to be ineligible to work.  It can eliminate "No Match" letters from the SSA notifying an employer that an employee's reported social security number does not match government records.


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Monday, December 3, 2018

Form I-9 Inspections

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) requires employers to verify the identity of their employees and their eligibility to work in the U.S.  To comply, employers must retain original I-9 Forms for current employees and, for former employees, keep them for at least three years.  These need not be submitted to the government but must be available for inspection.  From time to time, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) ask to inspect the forms. 

What Does an Inspection Entail?

An employer who receives a Notice of Inspection must produce its I-9s, usually within 3 business days, and may be asked for payroll records, employee lists, articles of incorporation, and business licenses.  ICE may ask the employer to bring the documents to an ICE field office, or officials may visit the employer.  At the inspection, in addition to printed documents, the employer must retrieve any electronically stored documents requested and provide the ICE officer with the hardware and software needed to view them.  The employer must also provide an electronic summary of information in the I-9s, if one exists.

What Happens Afterwards?

After reviewing the I-9s, ICE may send the employer one or more of the following:


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Friday, November 30, 2018

5 Myths about Immigrants

Immigrants don't want to become citizens.

The number of eligible immigrants submitting citizenship applications continues to increase. Due to huge backlogs in the system, the majority of applicants must wait years to hear a decision. Several factors determine an immigrant's eligibility, and meeting all of the requirements is not easy. In order to apply for naturalization, immigrants must pass background checks, verify they have paid their taxes, take a U.S. history and civics test, and prove they have resided in the United States (with lawful permanent resident status) for five years, among other regulations. In fact, only 7 percent of Hispanic immigrants surveyed as part of a Pew Hispanic Center study said they didn't want to become citizens.

Immigrants Won't Learn English.

Immigrants to the U.S. may not speak fluent English right away, but polls show that after 15 years, 75 percent of first generation immigrants speak English proficiently. The ability to speak the language increases significantly with succeeding generations: 91 percent and 97 percent of second and third generation immigrant families, respectively, speak English.

Immigrants don't pay taxes.

Despite the fact that most immigrants are unable to benefit from federal and federal-state assistance programs, the majority pay income tax or have taxes withheld from their paychecks; all immigrants pay sales and property taxes. Both legal and undocumented immigrants can't claim social security benefits, a tax refund or other welfare benefits.

Immigrants bring crime to the areas in which they settle.


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Friday, November 9, 2018

Sponsoring a Family Member for Immigration

The Immigration and Naturalization Act allows citizens and permanent residents of the United States to sponsor family members abroad for immigration to the U.S.  The relatives must be direct relatives, and their sponsors must commit to supporting them financially.

A petitioner may apply on behalf of a son, daughter, husband, wife, parent, brother or sister.  In many cases, these relatives may bring along dependents, such as a spouse or unmarried children under 21.

What Paperwork Is Required?

The sponsor begins by filing a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, which contains basic information about the identity of the sponsor and the relative seeking to immigrate.  The sponsor must also complete a Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, agreeing to be financially responsible for the relative.  


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Friday, November 2, 2018

When Will an Immigrant Be Barred from Entry Because of a Connection to Terrorism?

Section 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) bars individuals from entry in the United States for a variety of reasons.  These include terrorism-related inadmissibility grounds (TRIG). 

Regardless of whether a person is coming to the U.S for tourism or employment, and regardless of whether he or she has married a U.S. citizen or won a visa lottery, TRIG may bar entry completely.

Types of Terrorism-Related Activities That May Be Covered

Terrorism-related activities include some that are violent and illegal, others that involve association with and support of causes or people involved in terrorism.  For example, a person who engages in terrorist acts, who has received military training from a terrorist organization, who has incited terrorist activity, or who has endorsed or espoused terrorism would be inadmissible.  So too would a spouse or child of anyone who engaged in terrorist activity during the preceding five years.

The INA's definition of terrorist activity covers various types of sabotage, assassination, kidnapping, hijacking, and other acts commonly associated with terror. 


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Friday, October 26, 2018

Divorce after Immigration Proceedings

Studies reveal that nearly half of all marriages in the United States end in a divorce. With these staggering numbers, it may seem that divorce is a rather simple proceeding. When immigration is involved, however, a divorce may not only dissolve a marriage but it may also jeopardize one partner’s ability to remain in the country.

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 237(a)(1)(G)(i): a person can be deported for marriage fraud if the person was married less than 2 years prior to obtaining Legal Permanent Residence(LPR) status, and the marriage was judicially annulled or terminated within 2 years of LPR entry. Under these guidelines, most marriages must span at least four years or the immigrant spouse may risk deportation once the divorce is finalized.


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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

USCIS Updates Policy Manual for Submitting Form I-693

Please be advised that Policy Guidance for the validity period of Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record, is being revised by USCIS.  USCIS officers use Form I-693 to determine whether an applicant for an immigration benefit in the United States is inadmissible under the health-related grounds of inadmissibility.  As of November 1, 2018, the updated policy will go into effect.

As such, applicants filing an underlying application (i.e. Form I-485 for adjustment of status) will be required to submit Forms I-693 signed by a civil surgeon no more than 60 days before submission of filing.  This will allow for a two-year period of validity following the civil surgeon’s signature date. Although USCIS will continue to retain the current two-year maximum validity period, a more effective way of calculating the validity period will be implemented in order to enhance operational efficiencies and reduce the number of requests to applicants for an updated Form I-693, including the reduction of delays in adjudicating underlying applications based on fewer requests for updated forms.


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Friday, October 12, 2018

Do Restrictive Immigration Laws Drive Undocumented Immigrants Out of America?

Proponents of strict immigration laws often state that stricter laws can significantly reduce the number of undocumented immigrants in the US.  However, according to a study released by the Center for American Progress, increasing regulation will not necessarily drive America’s estimated 10 million unauthorized immigrants out of the country. The study “Staying Put but Still in the Shadows: Undocumented Immigrants Remain in the Country Despite Strict Laws” instead suggests that several other factors influence whether unauthorized immigrants stay or leave.

According to the study, proponents of “attrition through enforcement,” a measure whereby law enforcement puts into effect strict measures against unauthorized immigrants to encourage them to leave, are mistaken in their basic premise. The basic idea of “attrition through enforcement” revolves around making life miserable enough for unauthorized migrants that they “self-deport” to their home country. But the authors of the study argue that such restrictive measures against unauthorized migrants are not only costly – they’re ineffective. Instead, the measures “complicate” already-tense relationships between law enforcement agencies and unauthorized immigrants.


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Friday, October 5, 2018

Adopting Internationally? Immigration Issues to Consider

Adopting a child from a foreign country can be an incredible experience for both the parent and the child but it is not an easy process.  Even after the exhausting process of finding the right child, the adopting parents must work with officials from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Department in order to bring the child home to the U.S.

There are three different ways for U.S. citizens to adopt a child internationally. They are Hague, Orphan (Non-Hague) and adopting an immediate relative. The Hague process applies to children who are in countries that are a party to the Hague Intercountry Adoption Convention. The Orphan process applies to children who are in countries that are not a party to the Hague Convention.


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