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Immigration Law Blog

Monday, January 30, 2017

President Trump Signs Executive Order on Friday, January 27, 2017 Instituting a Travel Ban for Nationals of Certain Countries


On Friday, January 27, 2017, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States”. This Executive Order had the effect of banning nationals of Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya, or Yemen from entering the United States for a period of at least 90 days (potentially longer). This travel ban includes foreign nationals who have dual citizenship with one of the listed countries as well as another foreign country not on the list. U.S.
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Monday, January 16, 2017

Driving Privileges for Undocumented Immigrants

For undocumented immigrants, one of the biggest obstacles to living a mainstream life in the United States is the inability to obtain a driver’s license. This is troublesome for a number of reasons. In most parts of the country, it is nearly impossible to travel any distance without driving since public transportation is often unreliable and time-consuming. Other alternatives, such as walking and biking are only viable in good weather and for relatively short distances. Relying on others for transportation is not only undependable but requires a degree of indebtedness many travelers want to avoid.

A study by Temple University shows that laws preventing undocumented immigrants from holding a driver's licenses interferes with basic human rights. Without the ability to drive themselves to interviews or employment, most potential jobs are hopelessly out of reach. Moreover, children’s education is often compromised, and it becomes difficult to deal with medical emergencies. Inability to travel by car negatively impacts economic mobility, safety, and self-worth, and exacerbates the ever-present fear of deportation.

Immigrants who drive are, in some locations, pulled over more frequently than other drivers due of ethnic profiling, and are often forced to pay heavy fines. Not only do the fines have a negative economic impact on those already struggling financially, but such drivers, if found guilty, may have their licenses suspended indefinitely. This creates far-reaching problems for these individuals if and when they do obtain green cards and apply for driver's licenses. Repeat offenses can result in jail time which will adversely affect any attempt to obtain documentation through the legal process.

On the plus side, a valid driver’s license issued in the driver’s home country can be used legally in the United States. Some states require an International Driver’s Permit, a multi-language document. This permit should be issued by the applicant’s home country. Scam artists who sell false permits in the United States, however, are all too common. Immigrants need to be cautioned to be aware of such costly and dangerous swindles. 

Once the driver's license from a driver’s home country expires, the individual is expected to either apply for a driver’s license in his or her state of residence or stop driving altogether. Currently, only 11 states and Washington DC allow undocumented immigrants to apply for a license.  These states are California, Washington, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Illinois, Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut, and Vermont. Each of these states has its own rules and regulations for individuals obtaining licenses without a social security number. Local attorneys are in the best position to provide guidance about current regulations and should always be consulted for up-to-date helpful advice. 


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Reporting Unprofessional Conduct by Customs and Border Control Officers


There have been recent reports of unprofessional, intimidating, and demeaning conduct by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) Officers towards arriving nonimmigrants at airports and ports of entry around the United States. Arriving nonimmigrants have been subject to increased levels of questioning and to improper remarks. If this has happened to you, it is important that you report your experience to the CBP chain of command so that this trend can be properly addressed. You can report CBP misconduct to the Read more . . .


Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Effects of a Contagious Disease on Immigration

Fear of an Ebola outbreak in the United States renewed the debate over how open the country should be to people who are sick. Some people are prevented from immigrating to the United States because they are infected with a contagious disease, but illness is not typically the reason people are denied legal status.

All people who wish to immigrate to the United States (and people currently in the United States who want to adjust their status to permanent resident) must undergo a medical examination by a doctor certified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Thinking about the medical exam often causes applicants undue stress because very few people are in perfect health. The United States does not, however, turn people away for minor issues such as the common cold.

The CDC is in charge of determining which diseases prevent people from being able to immigrate. Checking their website is the best way to learn which illnesses are currently considered disqualifying.

People who fail the medical exam because they have a disease that is on the CDC’s list are not permanently banned from entering the United States. Some of the diseases on the list can be cured, so reapplication after treatment is possible. Applicants who fail the medical examination can also apply for a waiver.

Waivers are granted on a case by case basis. The CDC reviews the waiver application and the applicant’s medical records, then makes a recommendation to the Department of Homeland Security, which makes the final decision. If the waiver is approved, the person is allowed to come to the United States.

It is important to keep in mind that the medical examination is just one small part of the application process. It is rare for applicants who are otherwise eligible to be denied entry to the country or a chance of status based on illness alone.

An experienced immigration attorney can help an applicant determine if they are likely to have difficulty passing the medical examination and what options are available if the applicant does fail the exam.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

USCIS Publishes Final Rule For Certain Employment-Based Immigrant and Nonimmigrant Visa Programs


On November 18, 2016, USCIS published a final rule implementing the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000 (“AC21”) and the American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998 (“ACWIA”) which will go into effect on January 17, 2017. The new rule will modernize and improve several aspects of certain employment-based nonimmigrant and immigrant visa programs. It will also amend existing regulations in order to make it easier for U.S. employers to hire and retain certain foreign workers who are the beneficiaries of approved employment-based immigrant visa petitions and are waiting to become lawful permanent residents.
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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

What are the restrictions on an H2A visa?

The H2A visa is available for employers to bring in foreign nationals in order to fill temporary agricultural jobs. A prospective employer must make an application on the employee’s behalf by filling out form I-129. In order to obtain an H2A visa, the employer must be able to stipulate that the position to be filled is temporary or seasonal in nature and that there are not sufficient American citizens willing, able, and qualified to perform the temporary work. Furthermore, the employment of foreign nationals must not adversely affect the wages or working conditions of American workers. In addition, the petitioner must be in possession of a temporary labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor.

The issuance of H2A visas is limited to nationals from 68 approved countries.  An individual may stay in the United States and work under the temporary visa only for the period of time authorized in the employer’s temporary labor certification, which varies from one employer to another.  If the need for employees is greater than anticipated, an employer may apply for an extension for his or her employees under the H2A program. Each extension lasts one year and the maximum stay permitted under this classification is three years. After this, in order to reapply for H2A status, an individual must leave the United States for 3 uninterrupted months before being allowed to return to work in the United States.  Employers are responsible for providing adequate housing for the workers and to provide transportation to and from the workers’ home countries. There is no cap on the number of H2A visas available annually or on the number of H2A visas allowed for any particular country.

H2A recipients are not residents and they are not immigrants.  There is no path to a green card with a H2A visa. Recipients are required to work during their stay. If their employment ends for any reason, their visa expires. They may leave the country and return, but only if authorized by their employer. If they desire to bring family members with them into this country, they must apply separately for an H4 visa. Family members who are recipients of such H4 visas, however, are not permitted to work during their stay in the United States.

It is not only desirable, but also necessary, to consult with an experienced immigration attorney well versed in the complexities of immigration law before submitting an application. Without such assistance, it is extremely difficult to fully understand the limitations and restrictions on any type of visa.


Monday, October 17, 2016

What Do I Have to Study for My Citizenship Test?

The United States naturalization test, also called a citizenship exam, comes in two parts.  The first part of the test covers an applicant’s knowledge of the United States system of government. During the interview to determine if an applicant is eligible for naturalization, a USCIS officer will select 10 questions from a list of 100 and administer an oral examination to test the applicant’s knowledge of civics. Some examples of questions on the list of 100 include:

  • How many amendments are there to the US constitution? (27)
  • Who makes the federal laws? (Congress)
  • What group of people were taken to America and sold as slaves? (Africans)
  • What is the capital of the United States? (Washington D.C.).

A complete list of the one hundred potential questions is available on the USCIS website.

The second half of the citizenship test examines the applicant’s ability to read, write, speak, and understand the English language. Each applicant must be able to read one out of three sentences correctly, and write one out of three sentences correctly in order to demonstrate the ability to read and write in English. A USCIS officer will determine an applicant’s ability to speak and understand English during the eligibility interview on the Application for Naturalization. The best way to study is to practice speaking, reading, and writing every day. The more a person uses the language, the more comfortable he or she becomes with it. Vocabulary flashcards can be a useful study tool as well.

There are exceptions to the English portion of the exam. Applicants who are over the age of 50 do not have to take the English portion of the exam if they have been in the United States on a green card for more than 20 years. Similarly, applicants over the age of 55 do not have to take the English portion of the exam if they have been in the United States with a green card for more than 15 years. A person who qualifies for these exemptions must still pass the civics section of the citizenship test in his or her native language, and is responsible for bringing an interpreter who is fluent in both English and his or her native tongue.

If a person fails one or both sections of the test, a second interview will be administered to the applicant seeking naturalization. The second interview will be between 60 and 90 days after the initial interview and will only cover the portion of the test that the applicant previously failed.


Monday, October 10, 2016

2018 Diversity Visa Lottery Immigrant Visa Program Accepting Applications from Tuesday October 4, 2016 through Monday November 7, 2016


Each year, the United States Department of State administers a Diversity Lottery Immigrant Visa Program, a random lottery which awards approximately 50,000 immigrant visas ("diversity visas") to foreign nationals who meet the simple but strict eligibility requirements and are immigrating from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States.

Online registration for this year's lottery, the 2018 Diversity Visa Program (DV-2018), began on Tuesday, October 4, 2016 and will conclude on Monday, November 7, 2016. In order to apply, applicants must submit electronic applications during this registration period using the


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Thursday, September 15, 2016

What Documents Do I Need to Travel Outside the United States?

Most citizens of the United States are allowed to leave this country freely. The restrictions on entering the destination country, however, are determined by that country. If a visa is required for travel, one must be obtained. If other documents are required, a traveler can find out by contacting the embassy of the destination country. Each country has its own unique requirements for entry with which all visitors must comply. Airlines may have their own requirements, so travelers should check with them as well.

A person’s right to return to the United States requires proper documentation. If a traveler is undocumented, he or she will be not be permitted entry into the United States. Lawful permanent residents should carry their green card for re-entry. They should also bring a foreign passport, national ID, or U.S. driver’s license to confirm their identity, and form I-131, with supporting documents and applicable fees. A customs official will speak with each traveler to determine whether or not his or her stay outside the country violated the terms of residency. If the customs official feels that the traveler has abandoned his or her residence in the United States, the traveler’s status as a permanent resident may be revoked. A customs official may ask questions concerning a traveler’s community and family ties in the United States, about the individual’s work, property ownership, filing of income taxes, or residence. If the stay abroad was for longer than one year, a re-entry permit, form I-131, may be required. Brief trips will not affect a person’s status, but trips of 6 months or more may affect a person’s ability to become a naturalized citizen and may require form N-470 to correct.

Those who do not hold a green card may still be permitted to travel outside of the United States, depending on the type of visa they hold. Those who have an F-1 or M-1 student visa will be able to travel if the trip is for fewer than 5 months, and if their SEVIS form I-20 is up to date and endorsed for travel by the student’s designated school official. Many non-permanent residents, such as K-1 visa holders, are not allowed to travel abroad. For some, the line is blurred. For those who are in the country on a U Visa, international travel is permitted, but should only be engaged in if absolutely necessary as a traveler might miss important USCIS mailings or attempts at communication from law enforcement agencies. If a traveler has previously overstayed a visa before leaving the United States, or if any other condition of residency has been violated, that individual may be denied re-entry. It is important to consult with an experienced immigration attorney before international travel to avoid problems at the border.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Refugee Status in the United States

A person may request entry into the United States as a refugee if he or she is located outside of the United States, can demonstrate that he or she is facing persecution due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group, is not firmly resettled in another country, and is otherwise admissible to the United States.

In order to begin the process to apply for refugee status, an individual must first be referred to the US Refugee Admissions Program. Having a family member admitted to the United States as a refugee may help the determination. Immediate family members, including spouses and unmarried children under the age of twenty one, can be included in the application. Same sex partners who are unmarried may link their applications and ask to be resettled in the same geographic area. There are no fees to apply for entry to the United States as a refugee. Refugees have a right to expedited processing if they are facing an acute medical or protection problem. Once an individual or family is approved, they will receive a medical examination, a cultural orientation, and a loan for travel expenses.

Refugees are permitted to work immediately upon entering the United States. They must apply for a green card within one year of their entry, but are excused from paying application fees as well as fees for fingerprinting and biometrics. Refugees are permitted to travel abroad, but to reenter the United States, they must first obtain a Refugee Travel Document. If a refugee returns to the country from which he or she originally fled, the refugee must explain the reason for his or her return and how he or she was able to escape persecution. If these travel restrictions are not met, he or she may not be permitted to reenter the United States. Refugees have all the rights of American citizens including the right to free speech, free exercise of religion, freedom of assembly, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures and self-incrimination, the right to own property, the right to an education and access to housing, the right to petition the courts for relief, and the right to public assistance where appropriate.


Thursday, August 4, 2016

Deadline to Submit Applications to Add 7 Months to a 17-Month STEM OPT Extension is August 8, 2016


Foreign Nationals with a current 17-month STEM OPT extension are eligible under the new 24-month STEM OPT regulations to apply to add an additional 7 months to their STEM OPT period.  In order to apply for this 7-month extension, eligible Foreign Nationals must properly file a new Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization (including the required fee and signature) on or before August 8, 2016.  USCIS will not accept applications filed after August 8, 2016.

Foreign Nationals are eligible to add 7 months to their 17-month STEM OPT extension if:

  • They are currently participating in the STEM OPT program based on a 17-month extension;
  • They request the additional 7-month period by filing a new Form I-765 between May 10, 2016 and August 8, 2016, and within 60 days of the date their Designated School Official (DSO) enters the recommendation for the 24-month STEM OPT extension into their SEVIS record;
  • They have at least 150 days of valid employment authorization remaining on their 17-month STEM OPT period on the date that they properly file a new Form I-765; and
  • The Foreign National, their DSO, and their employer each meet all of the 24-month STEM OPT extension requirements. 

For additional information, please see


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