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Can Divorce Affect The Immigration Process?…It Depends

Posted on: August 17, 2018 by in immigration
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A divorce is never easy, and a divorce is inevitably accompanied by some type of trouble. For almost everyone, a divorce can be emotionally turbulent. For many, a divorce means financial trouble. If you’re a parent, a divorce means parenting problems and possibly a custody battle.

And if you are not a US citizen yet, you may need the help of an immigration lawyer because it may also affect your immigration status in the United States. For example, if you are waiting for your adjustment of status filed through your US citizen spouse; or you are already a conditional lawful permanent resident in the United States – a “green card holder” with a 2 year conditional period; or if you are a spouse of someone who qualifies for an immigration visa or adjustment of status; or if you are in the U.S. as the spouse of someone holding a non-immigrant visa, it’s quite possible that a divorce will cause some very negative immigration consequences for you.

A divorce could mean the revocation of your lawful permanent residency, and in some cases, removal from the United States – but not in every case.

WILL A DIVORCE PREVENT YOU FROM ACQUIRING A GREEN CARD?

But even the immigration authorities know that sometimes a marriage fails, so do not conclude that a divorce or an annulment of your marriage means that you cannot obtain a green card.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), however, may investigate your marriage a second time for any evidence of marriage fraud.

What happens when an immigrant gets a divorce will depend to a great extent on the immigrant’s status when the divorce is finalized.

If a relative in the U.S. has submitted an I-130 visa petition on your behalf and that petition is pending when your divorce is finalized, you may no longer be qualified.

WHAT ABOUT NON-IMMIGRANT VISA HOLDERS – AND THEIR SPOUSES?

Experienced Las Vegas immigration attorney Margo Chernysheva explains that if you divorce while you are in the United States as an asylee or with a non-immigrant visa, your spouse may lose his or her immigration benefit because of the divorce.

For example, let’s say that your spouse is employed in the United States and holds an L-1A non-immigrant intracompany transferee visa.

You accompany your spouse to the U.S., and you hold an L-2 visa – which is dependent on your spouse’s status. If you and your spouse divorce, you lose your immigration status the moment that the divorce is finalized, and you’ll have to leave the United States or apply for your own independent visa.

WHAT IF YOU DIVORCE WHILE YOUR GREEN CARD REQUEST IS PENDING?

If an immigrant has applied for adjustment of status – that is, for a green card by submitting Form I-485 – but has not yet been interviewed for adjustment of status at the time the divorce is finalized, the I-485 application may be denied, and/or the interview may be canceled.

Immigration attorney Margo Chernysheva explains that if your divorce is finalized while Form I-130 or Form I-485 is pending or during “I-130/counselor processing, divorce means the end of the benefit eligibility.”

DO YOU QUALIFY UNDER THE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT (VAWA)?

However, under the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), an immigrant may qualify to become a lawful permanent resident if that immigrant is a victim of battery or extreme cruelty committed by:

1. a U.S. citizen spouse or ex-spouse
2. a U.S. citizen parent, son, or daughter
3. a lawful permanent resident spouse, ex-spouse, or parent

Attorney Chernysheva explains that if your case “is a VAWA case, you will need to be divorced to receive the benefit.”

When an immigrant is approved for a green card prior to marriage, if that marriage ends in divorce, the immigrant’s lawful permanent resident status probably will not be at risk, but if that green card holder later seeks U.S. citizenship, immigration authorities will take a closer look.

CAN CONDITIONAL RESIDENCY STATUS BE REMOVED AFTER A DIVORCE?

If you are an immigrant who was married to a citizen of the U.S. for less than two years when your green card was approved, you received “conditional” residency status. You request the removal of conditional status – and a green card – by submitting Form I-751.

However, the I-751 is a joint form that needs to be signed by both spouses.

If you divorce while your residency status is conditional, you may have difficulty obtaining a green card. In fact, when you submit Form I-751, you may be required to include proof that the marriage, although it was short and ended in divorce, was not fraudulent. The proof may include:

1. joint bank account statements
2. children’s birth certificates
3. a mortgage or rental agreement signed by both spouses
4. statements from marriage counselors or therapists that the marriage was not fraudulent

According to Las Vegas immigration attorney Margo Chernysheva, if you can prove that your marriage was legitimate, you will probably have no difficulties when you submit Form I-751 requesting the removal of conditional residency status.

Attorney Chernysheva says that your divorce “may or may not affect the process as it depends on many factors, but mostly it should not if the marriage was entered into for reasons other than immigration and was a bona fide marriage.”

HOW DOES DIVORCE AFFECT NATURALIZATION?

When you are a green card holder, and you apply for U.S. citizenship, USCIS reviews your immigration file and takes a closer look at the information in that file regarding your marriage.

A divorce or annulment, while your citizenship application is pending, will probably trigger a full re-examination of the case for any indication that your marriage was fraudulent.

When you submit Form N-400 to apply for U.S. citizenship after a divorce, you may need to produce documents to prove that your marriage was not fraudulent.

The 3-year path for spouses of U.S. citizens and the 5-year path for other lawful permanent residents are the two standard ways that adults become U.S. citizens.

Even though immigration authorities will already have abundant information about you, at this stage, they may require more recent and relevant documentation about your marriage and its legitimacy.

Attorney Chernysheva explains that, “If applying for N-400 (naturalization) under the 3-year provision, divorce or even separation will affect eligibility. If it is under the 5-year rule – no.”

If USCIS is not persuaded that your marriage was legitimate, you could conceivably face removal proceedings.

WHAT IS THE WISEST THING AN IMMIGRANT CAN DO AFTER A DIVORCE?

Immigration difficulties are often an unfortunate result of divorce, but in any of the situations discussed here, the wisest thing you can do is to obtain the advice – and if necessary, the representation – of an experienced immigration attorney.

It doesn’t matter what your immigration status is – you have the right to an attorney’s help. If you are dealing with any immigration matter related to a divorce, get that help immediately. Nothing is more important than your future.

What To Expect At A Stokes Interview?

Posted on: July 15, 2018 by in immigration
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When you tell people that you are in love, most people will probably believe you – except the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). When you seek a green card for your foreign-born spouse, you’ll have to prove to the immigration authorities that your love is real.

A couple who claims marriage as their basis to acquire a green card must persuade immigration officials that their marriage is “bona fide.” How does the process work, and how can you convince the authorities that your love is for real? Also, how can a Las Vegas fiancé visa lawyer help?

WHAT IS MARRIAGE FRAUD? WHAT IS THE PENALTY FOR A CONVICTION?

First, it is imperative to understand that if someone enters into a marriage for the purpose of evading the immigration laws of the United States, that person may be prosecuted for marriage fraud.

A conviction for marriage fraud is punishable by as much as five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine. The law is applied to U.S. citizens as well as foreign nationals.

HOW CAN YOU BRING SOMEONE YOU LOVE TO THE UNITED STATES?

But if you’re genuinely in love, here’s how the process works.

If you are a U.S. citizen engaged to a foreign citizen, your fiancée or fiancé must first acquire a K-1, temporary visa that provides the visa holder with ninety days to marry the U.S.-citizen fiancée or fiancé and to apply for legal permanent resident status.

The process begins when the U.S. citizen files Form I-129F to ask USCIS to recognize a foreign citizen as the U.S. citizen’s fiancée or fiancé. Proof must be presented that the couple intends to marry within 90 days of the fiancée’s or fiancé’s arrival in the U.S.

WHY WILL YOU NEED AN IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY’S HELP?

Approval of Form I-129F is no guarantee that a K-1 visa will be issued. You should have an experienced Las Vegas immigration attorney help you with the paperwork, because any errors or incomplete information on the I-129F may delay the process.

USCIS forwards approved Form I-129Fs to the National Visa Center, which will inform the U.S. citizen-petitioner that his or her fiancé or fiancée may now apply for the K-1 visa.

The U.S. Department of State (DOS) then conducts a background check on the fiancé or fiancée that includes fingerprinting and a consular interview, usually at a U.S. embassy or consulate in that person’s home nation.

If the DOS officer conducting the interview does not believe the romantic relationship is bona fide, no visa will be issued.

HOW DOES A K-1 VISA HOLDER OBTAIN A GREEN CARD?

When a K-1 is approved, and the marriage ceremony takes place within 90 days of the fiancée’s or fiancé’s entry into the U.S., the K-1 visa holder may then file Form I-485 to request a green card. USCIS will once again check the backgrounds of both parties and interview them.

The first interview for a green card is called an “adjustment of status” interview, because the visa card holder is seeking to change to lawful permanent resident status.

But if the interviewer suspects that the couple has no genuine romance and married only to get the green card, or if there are any other suspicions or discrepancies, a second interview is provided – and the couple is given one last chance to prove that their love is real.

This second interview is called the “marriage fraud” interview or the “Stokes” interview.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN AT A STOKES INTERVIEW?

At a Stokes interview, an immigration officer explains to the couple why immigration authorities were not satisfied with the first interview. The couple is separated and interviewed individually.

If you are the subject of a Stokes interview, you will be asked extremely personal and intimate questions. The two individual interviews are recorded and checked for discrepancies.

The couple is then interviewed together and asked to explain or clarify any discrepancies.

WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO HANDLE A STOKES INTERVIEW?

If the immigration officer conducting the interview is satisfied by the couple’s explanations, a green card will be approved. If the officer is not satisfied that the marriage is bona fide, the green card will be denied.

Each case is unique. Every interviewer has his or her own interviewing style. The best thing you can do in a Stokes interview is to answer the questions as honestly and as conscientiously as possible.

You should prepare to answer some questions that many people would consider offensive. Try to answer the questions in a straightforward manner. If you do not know the answer to a question, say so.

WHAT WILL YOU NEED TO BRING TO A STOKES INTERVIEW?

Obtaining a green card depends on a successful Stokes interview. Bring to the Stokes interview any document that may be pertinent, including:

1. your marriage certificate
2. birth certificates
3. visas
4. passports
5. entry records

You will also need evidence that you are in fact a “bona fide” married couple. That evidence may include:

1. joint bank and insurance statements
2. proof of joint assets and liabilities
3. a copy of your residential lease
4. affidavits from reliable witnesses
5. any other evidence that the marriage is bona fide

Depending on your case, other documents may be requested. Make copies of everything that might be considered evidence.

WHY IS A STOKES INTERVIEW CONDUCTED?

A Stokes interview is required when immigrations officials are dissatisfied with your first adjustment of status interview or when they have any other suspicions whatsoever.

The authorities probably suspect that your marriage may not be bona fide, so your interviewer will be looking for a reason to deny your green card request. Answering even one question wrong could be disastrous.

A Stokes interview is also quite stressful and frustrating. That’s on purpose. You need to prepare yourself, be careful, and be emotionally composed.

If you appear to be tense, frustrated, or defensive, your interviewer may interpret those reactions the wrong way – as a sign that you are being dishonest. If there’s tension between you and your spouse, that might also be interpreted the wrong way.

WHEN WILL YOU RECEIVE YOUR GREEN CARD?

You may also feel some aggravation after a Stokes interview, because it may take some time to receive a final approval or denial of the green card. You will need to have some patience. If an additional investigation is conducted, you might be waiting for months.

Authorities might even visit your home – unannounced – as part of their investigation.

If you are scheduled for a Stokes interview, the best way to be prepared is to work with a qualified immigration attorney. Your attorney can review your documentation and even conduct a “mock” Stokes interview to help you prepare for the real thing.

A Stokes interview is serious. You must be prepared, and you must get the legal help you need. That is your right.

The Challenges Of Changing Your Immigration Status During The Trump Era

Posted on: June 21, 2018 by in visas
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If you are in the United States with a non-immigrant visa, and if you need or desire to change your immigration status, keep reading. You’ll learn how to change to another non-immigrant category and how to change from non-immigrant status to legal permanent resident status, and how an employment immigration law firm can help.

You’ll also learn about the difficulties you may face as new regulations regarding changes of status are imposed by the Trump Administration, so keep reading.

WHAT ARE “NON-IMMIGRANT” VISAS AND VISA CATEGORIES?

Non-immigrant visas may be approved for immigrants planning to be temporarily in the U.S. More than forty categories of non-immigrant visas have been established.

Some non-immigrant visas are issued for temporary employment; others are issued to students, business people, tourists, and diplomats who will be temporarily in the U.S.

HOW DO YOU CHANGE YOUR NON-IMMIGRANT STATUS?

Changing your nonimmigrant status to another nonimmigrant visa category can be complicated.

For instance, if you do not have work authorization, but if you’ve decided to seek or accept temporary employment in the U.S., your presumed employer must file a Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker (Form I-129) on your behalf.

And if you entered the U.S. in one of the following nonimmigrant categories, you may not apply for a change of nonimmigrant status, and you must exit the U.S. on or before the expiration date printed on your Form I-94: These categories are K1, K2, J1, M1, C, D, S, WT, WB, and Q2.

WHO QUALIFIES TO REQUEST A CHANGE OF STATUS?

Your nonimmigrant status can probably be changed if you are not in one of the nonimmigrant categories listed above and if:

1. You lawfully entered the United States.

2. Nothing disqualifies you from any immigration benefits.

3. Nothing requires you to exit the U.S. before changing your status.

4. You apply to change your status prior to the expiration date printed on your Form I-94.

You may apply for a change of non-immigrant status beginning six months prior to your Form I-94 expiration date. Be sure to file your request at least sixty days prior to that expiration date.

Have patience. It will take time to process your change of status request.

Your paperwork must be complete, accurate, and on time, or your change of status could be delayed or even denied.

If you’re eligible, and if you need to request a change of status, an experienced Las Vegas immigration attorney can ensure that no mistakes or misunderstandings hold up the process.

WHAT IS “ADJUSTMENT” OF STATUS?

Adjustment of status is the process of changing from a nonimmigrant immigration status to permanent lawful resident status – that is, becoming a green card holder.

A temporary visitor may apply for lawful permanent resident status if the individual lawfully entered the U.S. and meets all other immigration requirements.

If you already have a visa and you’re already in the United States, you can probably have your status adjusted and acquire a green card without being required to return to your home country for consular visa processing.

WHAT’S THE FIRST STEP TO OBTAINING A GREEN CARD?

The first step in the adjustment of status process is to determine if you fall into a green card-eligible immigrant category. If you are in the United States, and if you are eligible for adjustment of status, you must file a Form I-485.

If you apply to become a lawful permanent resident under section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), you must complete both Form I‑485 and Form I-485 Supplement A. Let an experienced immigration lawyer guide you through these complicated forms.

After filing the form or forms, you’ll be scheduled for an appointment at a local Application Support Center to provide your fingerprints, photograph, and signature. Your biometrics are used to verify your identity and to conduct the required background and security checks.

When you seek lawful permanent resident status in the United States, do it from the beginning with help from a good immigration lawyer who can answer your questions, help you compile the required documentation, and check your application forms for completeness and accuracy.

WHAT IS THE 90-DAY RULE?

Adjustment of status has become somewhat more difficult under the Trump Administration. In September 2017, the Department of State adopted a harsh new “90-day rule.”

Under this rule, 90 days must pass after admission before anyone in a nonimmigrant status can safely file an adjustment of status application for lawful permanent residency without the government claiming that willful misrepresentation was committed at entry.

HOW CAN YOU BRING FAMILY MEMBERS TO THE U.S.?

A U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident may petition for certain family members to live in the United States and acquire green cards.

A citizen or lawful permanent resident launches the process by filing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. To obtain a green card based on a family relationship, the immigrant must be in either the immediate relative or family preference category.

Form I-130 establishes a qualifying relationship so that the relative may apply for a green card.

WHAT ABOUT BRINGING YOUR FIANCÉE, FIANCÉ, OR SPOUSE TO THE U.S.?

Bringing your fiancée, fiancé, or spouse into the United States is a procedure that can take time, so you need to get started as soon as you can. Spouses, fiancées, and fiancés will require one of these “K” visas:

• K-1 for fiancés and fiancées of U.S. citizens
• K-2 for eligible children of fiancées and fiancés of U.S. citizens
• K-3 for spouses of U.S. citizens
• K-4 for qualified children of the spouses of U.S. citizens

The K visa is a nonimmigrant, temporary visa. The person receiving a K-1 visa has ninety days to marry the U.S. petitioner-citizen and request lawful permanent resident status. If no wedding takes place within ninety days, the K-1 visa holder could be targeted for deportation.

HOW IS A K-1 VISA OBTAINED?

The K-1 visa process begins when a U.S. citizen submits Form I-129F to petition U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to recognize a foreign citizen as the U.S. citizen’s fiancé or fiancée.

Evidence indicating that both parties are free to marry and in fact intend to marry must be included with Form I-129F.

By itself, approval of Form I-129F does not allow a fiancé or fiancée entry into the U.S., and it does not ensure that the State Department will approve a K-1 visa. If the K-1 visa is granted, it is good for one entry into the U.S.

Subsequent to the wedding ceremony, a K-1 visa holder may request lawful permanent resident status by filing Form I-485 with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

HOW CAN AN IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY HELP?

U.S. immigration law is exceedingly complicated, and in the current era, every immigration request an application will be scrutinized thoroughly. You’re going to need legal help and advice that you can absolutely depend on.

To obtain a visa, seek a change or adjustment of status, or bring someone you love to the U.S., start by scheduling a consultation with an experienced Las Vegas immigration attorney who will guide you through every step of the change of status or adjustment of status process.

Do You Have The Proper ID Documents?

Posted on: June 15, 2018 by in immigration
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What’s the best form of identification if you are an immigrant in the United States? Keep reading, because your ability to board an airplane or even to enter a federal building may depend on the identification card that you carry.

If you are an immigrant in the U.S., you need identification that is compliant with the federal government’s “Real ID” standards? What is “Real ID” and what are those standards? Here’s an explanation.

The United States does not issue or require an “official” federal identification card, so state-issued driver’s licenses, by default, are the accepted, official form of identification in the U.S. The states also provide similar, “official” ID cards to individuals who don’t drive.

WHAT IS THE REAL ID ACT?

Before the federal Real ID Act of 2005, every state established its own rules for issuing driver’s licenses and ID cards. The Real ID Act now sets the requirements for driver’s licenses and ID cards to be accepted by the federal government for “official purposes.”

“Official purposes,” as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, include boarding commercially operated airline flights and entering federal facilities and nuclear power plants.

The law also gives the Secretary of Homeland Security unlimited discretion to require Real ID-compliant identification for any other purposes.

WHEN WILL YOU NEED A REAL ID-COMPLIANT CARD OR LICENSE?

To fly commercially from January 22, 2018 through September 30, 2020, anyone with state ID that does not comply with the Real ID Act (unless the state has received an extension) must present other ID acceptable to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Identification documents accepted by the TSA include valid U.S. passports and military IDs. As of June 2018, however, almost every state has either received an extension or is already issuing ID cards and driver’s licenses that are Real ID-compliant.

And beginning on October 1, 2020, the federal government will require your driver’s license or identification card to be Real ID-compliant if you wish to use it as identification to board a domestic flight, to enter a military base, a nuclear power plant, or most federal facilities.

If you do not apply for a federal compliant Real ID driver’s license or ID card, you will receive a federal non-compliant card with the words “Federal Limits Apply.”

Beginning on October 1, 2020, that non-compliant card cannot be used to board a domestic flight or to visit a military base, nuclear power plant, or certain other federal facilities.

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO OBTAIN A REAL ID-COMPLIANT CARD OR LICENSE?

To acquire a Real ID compliant driver’s license or ID card, you must present proof of identity, your Social Security number, and proof of residency to your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.

However, if you have never held a green card, and if you do not have a U.S. birth certificate, you’ll need other documents, and you’ll need to act right away. An experienced Las Vegas immigration attorney can help.

The states have made considerable progress in ID card security since the Real ID Act took effect in 2005. More than 90 percent of U.S. drivers now hold licenses from states that have either satisfied the law’s requirements or have received deadline extensions.

If you’re an immigrant in the U.S., or if you hire immigrants at your U.S.-based business, and if you have questions about Real ID or any immigration-related legal matter, take your questions to an experienced Las Vegas immigration attorney, and get the answers you need – right away.

Attorney Margo Chernysheva Speaks At AILA Annual Conference

Posted on: June 14, 2018 by in AILA
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As the Nevada Chapter Chair of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), attorney Margo Chernysheva actively helps the nation’s immigration lawyers enhance their professional skills and stay abreast of current immigration developments.

An experienced Las Vegas immigration attorney and the founder of MC Law Group, Ms. Chernysheva recently spoke at the 2018 AILA Annual Conference on Immigration Law in San Francisco.

She was one of several immigration attorneys speaking on the topic “Mindfulness in Practice: Assessing Diversity and Implicit Bias.”

WHAT SPECIFIC TOPICS WERE ADDRESSED?

The panelists focused on cross-cultural awareness and sensitivity issues that are unique to the practice of immigration law – for example, diverse immigration attorneys from various backgrounds representing clients from various backgrounds and countries around the world.

Ms. Chernysheva offered the AILA conference attendees her insights and advice on how to collaborate effectively with attorneys and clients from different cultural backgrounds.

She also spoke regarding the ethical and practical considerations that immigration lawyers must take into account to balance open-mindedness and sensitivity with an awareness of implicit bias, and she explained how implicit bias can affect client representation and case strategy.

WHAT SUGGESTIONS WERE OFFERED TO CONFERENCE ATTENDEES?

Attorney Chernysheva and her co-panelists offered the immigration lawyers in attendance a number of practical suggestions in these four areas:

1. Effective and Culturally-Sensitive Communication Techniques When Working with Colleagues, Clients, and Opposing Counsel

2. Stepping into the Client’s Shoes: Educating Yourself in Order to Communicate Client Cultural Norms and Values When Presenting the Case

3. Effectively Communicating with Indigent Clients

4. Increasing Self-Awareness and Demonstrating Respect to Colleagues and Clients

WHAT MAKES CONFERENCES LIKE THIS SO IMPORTANT IN 2018?

In 2018, the future of immigration law is more uncertain than ever before. No one can be sure what Congress, the courts, or the Trump Administration will do regarding immigration in the coming weeks and months.

Now more than ever, it’s vital for the nation’s immigration lawyers to share insights and information with one another.

The 2018 AILA Annual Conference on Immigration Law offered immigration attorneys the chance to share and learn by conducting a variety of panel discussions that included experts in the fields of not only immigration law but also business law, family law, and criminal justice.

The 2018 AILA Annual Conference on Immigration Law was held at the San Francisco Hilton and Parc 55 Hotels from June 13th through June 16th.

Xavier Becerra, the Attorney General of California and an advocate for comprehensive immigration reform, delivered the conference’s keynote address.

Audio recordings of the panel discussions from the 2018 AILA Annual Conference on Immigration Law will be made available for purchase from the AILA website.

WHERE CAN YOU TURN FOR HELP WITH IMMIGRATION MATTERS?

MC Law Group helps clients with all aspects of immigration law including employment, family, and investor immigration. From its offices in Las Vegas; Glendale, California; and Guangzhou City, China, MC Law Group advises and represents clients from around the globe.

If you are an immigrant or a prospective immigrant, an international investor or entrepreneur, or a U.S.-based employer, MC Law Group offers you the experienced and trustworthy legal guidance you need.

Call today – at (702) 258-1093 – or email MC Law Group to arrange a no-cost consultation with an experienced Las Vegas immigration attorney.

Should Recipients Of H-4 Visas Fear Losing Their Businesses And Jobs?

Posted on: May 18, 2018 by in immigration
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The Trump Administration says that it is planning to revoke the eligibility of certain H-4 visa holders to seek employment or to hold a job in the United States.

For decades, although H-4 visa holders were allowed to live with their H-1B spouses in the United States, they could not work or obtain a Social Security number. This is where a Las Vegas immigration law firm can help.

HOW WERE THE RULES FOR H-4 VISAS CHANGED IN 2015?

But in 2015, the Obama Administration extended eligibility for employment to the H-4 dependent spouses of those H-1B visa holders who are seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident (LPR) status – a green card – in the United States.

Currently, qualified H-4 dependent spouses need to file Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization) with supporting evidence and a filing fee to obtain a Form I-766, Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

Under the current rules, an H-4 dependent spouse may work or seek work in the U.S. after USCIS approves the Form I-765 and issues the EAD.

At least, that’s how it has worked since 2015.

WHAT IS THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION’S PLAN?

But in April, the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) indicated that USCIS is moving forward with a plan by the Trump Administration to eliminate employment authorization for H-4 visa holders, although no date has been proposed or set.

USCIS director Lee Cissna told the Senate Judiciary Committee in April, “our plans include proposing regulatory changes to remove H-4 dependent spouses from the class of aliens eligible for employment authorization, thereby reversing the 2015 final rule that granted such eligibility.”

USCIS has granted over 100,000 employment authorization documents to H-4 visa holders since the rule was changed in 2015.

WHO IS OPPOSING THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION’S PLAN?

One libertarian think tank – the Cato Institute – strongly disagrees with the Trump Administration’s plan. Their senior immigration policy analyst, Alex Nowrasteh, told CNN that the plan is “shortsighted.”

Nowrasteh said, “Money earned is money spent. It increases economic output, economic growth and more jobs for more people in the U.S.”

“Immigrants are typically attracted to growing regions and they increase the supply and demand sides of the economy once they are there, expanding employment opportunities,” Nowrasteh told CNN.

Nowrasteh also insists that H-4 visa holders are not taking jobs from anyone here in the United States. That view directly contrasts with the view of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has said that authorizing employment for H-4 visa holders “hurts American workers.”

The Department of Homeland Security has additional plans for other changes to the H-1B visa program. One proposal would narrow eligibility for the H-1B visa “to increase focus on truly obtaining the best and brightest foreign nationals.”

WHAT ARE THE CONCERNS OF H-4 VISA HOLDERS?

That’s lofty rhetoric, but the fears and concerns of visa holders like Alpa Gajera are somewhat more down-to-earth.

Gajera, a native of India, is in the U.S. with an H-4 dependent visa. Her husband is a Canadian software engineer who holds an H-1B visa and has been waiting for a green card since 2012.

In 2015, when employment eligibility was extended to H-4 visa holders, Gajera invested almost all of the couple’s assets to obtain two Rising Roll Gourmet Café franchises in Atlanta.

Business has flourished, and all six of Gajera’s employees are U.S. citizens. She plans to open two more outlets, but if her authorization to work is revoked, all of those plans will screech to a halt.

“I’m very concerned,” she told CNN.

Somewhat different fears and concerns are emerging for an immigrant doctor – an allergist in New Jersey – who may have to stop treating hundreds of patients. She asked CNN not to reveal her name.

“I’m not taking away a job from a U.S. citizen because there’s already a shortage in my specialization,” she said. “There’s already an ongoing shortage of allergists in the country at a time when allergy-related conditions are increasing.”

WHAT HAS ACTUALLY CHANGED?

At the moment, however, except for some pronouncements from Trump Administration officials, nothing has actually changed for H-4 visa holders.

It is important to stress that no “official” policy change has been announced.

Existing EADs (employment authorization documents) are not being revoked. USCIS is still approving EADs for H-4 visa holders, and it is still renewing their existing EADs.

H-1B visas are offered to international workers with specialized knowledge. In the U.S., they are hired as programming analysts, software engineers, and scientists.

WHAT CAN H-4 VISA HOLDERS OFFER?

Many of their spouses hold professional degrees and in fact qualify for similar positions. Prior to 2015, the prohibition on employment for their spouses – H-4 visa holders – created, in effect, a vast pool of wasted talent.

If the 2015 policy change is reversed – and H-4 visa holders are again prohibited from working or seeking employment – every U.S. citizen will again be deprived of the H-4 visa holders’ important talents and skills.

HOW CAN AN IMMIGRATION LAWYER HELP?

Should H-4 visa holders attempt to switch to an H-1B or to some other visa? While no one should act in haste or in panic, it is a good idea for H-4 visa holders to review and consider their options.

H-4 visa holders and their employers should not hesitate to seek the insights and advice of an immigration lawyer.

Legal complications almost always arise in immigration-related employment matters, and employers must have someone they can trust to provide accurate answers to their immigration questions and concerns.

A good immigration attorney can also review an employer’s records and policies and provide advice about visas, visa petitions, and employer compliance.

WHAT IS THE ONE CERTAINTY REGARDING IMMIGRATION?

If you hire international employees to work for your company in the United States, or if you hold an H-4 or an H-1B visa and you have any questions or concerns regarding your visa or status, obtain the sound legal advice that an experienced Las Vegas immigration attorney can provide.

It remains to be seen whether or not H-4 visa holders will be allowed to work in the U.S. in the future.

The one certainty, however, is that immigration is changing, and that every employer and visa holder will need accurate and up-to-date immigration advice. Do not fail to get the help and advice that you need.

EB-5 Updates: “TEA” Letters

Posted on: April 21, 2018 by in EB-5
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Since 1990, the EB-5 Investor Visa Program has encouraged qualified international investors to become lawful permanent residents in the United States. The EB-5 program has now been extended through at least September 30, 2018.

If you hold an EB-5 visa or if you are seeking one, keep reading, particularly if you are investing or if you are considering making an investment in a Targeted Employment Area or “TEA.”

The states are currently updating their unemployment statistics. You are about to learn how that updating may affect TEA designations and your own involvement in the EB-5 Investor Visa Program.

EXACTLY WHAT IS THE EB-5 INVESTOR VISA PROGRAM?

But first, here’s a brief overview of the EB-5 Investor Visa Program. Congress created the EB-5 program in 1990 to boost international investments in U.S.-based business ventures.

From 2005 through 2013, the EB-5 program was responsible for more than $5 billion in investments in U.S.-based businesses.

To take part in the program, investors must be admissible to the U.S. and must also meet the qualifications for an EB-5 visa.

HOW DOES THE EB-5 APPLICATION PROCESS START?

The process begins by completing an I-526 petition with the help and guidance of an experienced Las Vegas immigration attorney.

Upon approval of the I-526, if the investor now resides outside of the U.S., he or she must file a visa application with the U.S. State Department. A consular affairs officer at a U.S. consulate or embassy will determine if the applicant is admissible to the United States.

If the applicant is already in the U.S. on a different visa, the applicant must apply to USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) for adjustment of status. USCIS will conduct a background check and may require an in-person interview.

WHAT INVESTMENT OPTIONS DOES THE EB-5 PROGRAM OFFER?

International investors have two options for acquiring the EB-5 visa:

1. Invest at least $1 million in a U.S.-based commercial enterprise that will create ten or more full-time U.S.-based jobs.

2. Invest at least $500,000 in a designated high-unemployment region – what’s called a Targeted Employment Area or TEA.

WHAT DO INVESTORS NEED FOR A TEA DESIGNATION?

As you might imagine, getting a TEA designation for a particular EB-5 project can be critical.

If you are requesting a TEA designation, your request – and a “TEA letter” from authorities in the state where the project is located – should be included as part of your I-526 petition.

HOW IS A “RURAL” AREA DISTINCT FROM A “HIGH UNEMPLOYMENT” AREA?

To receive a TEA designation, the EB-5 investment project must be located in a rural area or in a region with high unemployment – 150 percent or more of the national unemployment rate. Here are the specifics:

1. To qualify as a TEA “rural” area, an area cannot be within what the U.S. Office of Management and Budget designates as a “metropolitan statistical area,” and the area cannot be adjacent to a town or city with a population of 20,000 or more residents.

2. To qualify as a TEA “high unemployment” area, the area’s unemployment rate must be at least 150 percent of the national rate, and the area must be in a county or a metropolitan statistical location with a population of 20,000 or more residents.

Most EB-5 investors work through an EB-5 Regional Center, a private-sector group that pools investment funds for hotels, resorts, and similar projects.

If you invest through an EB-5 Regional Center, they will tell you if that center’s investment projects are set in a Targeted Employment Area.

WHAT DO EB-5 INVESTORS NEED TO KNOW – RIGHT NOW?

In the next several months, many states will update their unemployment figures for targeted employment areas. The states will replace the 2016 unemployment data they’ve been using with more recent unemployment figures from 2017.

An investor submitting an I-526 petition must be certain that petition includes the most up-to-date TEA letter from the state where the investment project is located.

An outdated TEA letter will likely delay any action on your I-526 petition.

In fact, an outdated TEA letter will almost certainly generate an “RFE” (request for evidence) from USCIS, so you should make certain that USCIS gets a current TEA letter – to avoid unnecessary waiting and additional paperwork.

Illinois, Florida, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, and California are already using 2017 unemployment data, so investors may request a new TEA letter from those states now.

The other states will be updating their unemployment information over the next several months.

WHICH INVESTORS WILL AND WILL NOT NEED A NEW “TEA” LETTER?

If your I-526 petition has already been approved, you will not need a new TEA letter, provided that the TEA letter you submitted was based on the unemployment data the state was using at the time you filed the I-526.

If what you have just read sounds complicated – selecting a qualifying investment project, filing an I-526 petition, and obtaining an up-to-date TEA letter – it is.

That is why international investors seeking to make an investment in the U.S. – and to acquire an EB-5 visa – must have the advice and insights of an immigration attorney who routinely guides international investors successfully through the EB-5 process.

WHO BENEFITS FROM THE EB-5 PROGRAM?

The EB-5 Investor Visa Program and the investments that are made through it are a benefit to everyone. Investors have the opportunity to bring their families to the United States and pursue the American Dream.

Business owners and developers acquire the investment funds to launch new projects – often bringing prosperity back to depressed businesses and communities.

The EB-5 program creates new jobs and new opportunities for U.S. workers. Everyone benefits.

WHEN SHOULD YOU START THE EB-5 APPLICATION PROCESS?

If you are an international investor, acquiring an EB-5 visa and determining which investment opportunity is right for you can take some diligence and determination, but most participants in the EB-5 program have found that their hard work and patience are abundantly rewarded.

And patience is something that EB-5 applicants will need. Only 10,000 EB-5 visas are made available each year, so you should start the process right away, and you should realize that you may be waiting a year or more until a visa becomes available.

The EB-5 is for international investors who have the resources, the will, and a vision for the future. Those investors will need immigration advice that they can trust.

Learn more about the EB-5 Investor Visa Program – or begin the application process now – by contacting an experienced U.S. immigration lawyer – online or by telephone – from anywhere in the world. The time to do that is now.

H-1B Visa Cap Surpassed For Fiscal Year 2019

Posted on: April 11, 2018 by in immigration
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No more H-1B visas will be available for fiscal year 2019.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that the number of H-1B visa applications has already surpassed 65,000 – the number of H1-B visas authorized each year by Congress – for fiscal year 2019.

USCIS has also received more than enough applications for the additional 20,000 H1-B visas set aside for those applicants who hold at least a master’s degree.

H-1B visa petitions are accepted every year beginning on April 1st.

This is the sixth consecutive year that U.S.-based employers have requested more H1-B visas than the federal government issues, and the cap, for the sixth year in a row, was once again reached in the first week of April.

WHAT HAPPENS TO PETITIONS RECEIVED AFTER THE CAP WAS REACHED?

The H-1B visa applications that were received by USCIS after the cap was reached will be returned to the senders.

The accepted applications will become part of a lottery process. By June, the visa applicants who have been randomly chosen for review will be notified.

All applicants who are approved for H-1B visas will be able to start work on October 1st, 2018.

Employers – and their international employees – who have any questions regarding the H1-B visa or lottery should speak to an experienced Las Vegas immigration attorney at MC Law Group.

PRECISELY WHAT IS THE H-1B VISA?

The H-1B visa is a nonimmigrant work visa that authorizes U.S.-based employers to hire international employees for up to six years – if a qualified U.S. citizen or resident is not available to take a specialized position.

An H-1B visa must be requested by the U.S. employer, not by the prospective employee. Workers who are hired on the basis of an H-1B visa must have earned at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent.

WHAT ARE THE OTHER H-1B REQUIREMENTS?

Both the U.S. employer and the international employee must satisfy exacting qualifications before an H-1B visa petition can be approved. It is a lengthy, complicated visa petition and a tricky, difficult application process.

To acquire an H-1B visa, an international worker first must have a job offer in a specialized field such as medical research, engineering, architecture, computer electronics, or a similarly specialized industry.

The pay offered by the employer must be consistent with compensation for similar jobs in the same geographic region.

WHAT ARE AN EMPLOYER’S OPTIONS?

While it is now too late to apply for an H1-B visa for fiscal year 2019, it’s never too early to begin work on H1-B petitions for next year – or to consider potential alternatives to the H-1B visa.

An experienced Las Vegas immigration attorney at MC Law Group knows how secure the H-1B visas that an employer needs – although employers must understand that because of the cap, not even one H-1B visa can be guaranteed.

HOW CAN WE HELP?

However, an MC Law Group attorney will also be familiar with several alternative visa options that may work equally well for some employers.

Every immigration procedure and visa application takes some time. Every visa applicant needs reliable legal insights and advice. That’s why you should contact us now at MC Law Group.

We are ready to help employers with their visa petitions, and we are ready to answer your questions and address all of your immigration and visa concerns.

USCIS Needs Your Current Mailing Address

Posted on: April 5, 2018 by in immigration
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Have you changed your address since arriving in the U.S? If you are an immigrant in the United States, it’s up to you to make absolutely certain that you are receiving the important immigration notices and documents you need – without delay.

It is absolutely imperative for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to have your correct mailing address at all times – and now, it’s actually more important than ever. Keep reading to learn why.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN BEGINNING IN APRIL?

Beginning on April 2, 2018, USCIS will destroy all Permanent Resident Cards, Employment Authorization Cards, and Travel Documents that are returned as undeliverable by the U.S. Postal Service.

Permanent Resident Cards, Employment Authorization Cards, and Travel Documents will be destroyed by USCIS after sixty business days if USCIS has not been contacted by the document’s intended recipient and if the correct mailing address has not been provided.

If you requested or expected an immigration document, moved, failed to receive the document, and it is destroyed, you will be looking at a long wait – and probably an additional expense – to replace that document.

HOW CAN AN IMMIGRATION LAWYER HELP YOU?

Immigrants in the United States may need the advice and legal services of an experienced Las Vegas immigration attorney to help them understand precisely what the law requires and how to comply with it.

If you are an immigrant in the U.S., don’t hesitate to seek the legal help you need.

USCIS encourages every immigrant to report a change of address within ten days of relocating within the United States or any of its territories using the change of address procedures outlined at uscis.gov/addresschange. Exceptions include:

1. Diplomats
2. Official government representatives to an international organization
3. Certain nonimmigrants who do not possess a visa and who are in the U.S. for less than thirty days

WHERE ARE YOUR DOCUMENTS SENT?

If you are entering the United States on an immigrant visa, USCIS will mail your Green Card to the mailing address in the United States that you provided at the time of your immigrant visa interview or to the address you provided when you were admitted entry into the United States.

If you move after you arrive in the United States, please update your address. To avoid the inconvenience of extra waiting and additional cost, make sure that you always give USCIS your current mailing address.

Mailing address information may be used by and disclosed to U.S. Department of Homeland Security personnel and contractors or other agents who need the information to assist in activities related to providing status information on a pending immigration benefit application or petition.

WHY IS IT VITAL FOR USCIS TO HAVE YOUR ADDRESS?

In other words, it is very much in your best interests for USCIS to have your current, accurate mailing address. Immigration authorities may need to contact you for a number of reasons, including immigration benefits and changes in your immigration status.

U.S. immigration laws are complicated and confusing. Changes in the law are frequent. Staying compliant and up-to-date with the law can take a little bit of effort.

If you have any questions regarding compliance with immigration laws, call today and speak to an experienced Las Vegas immigration attorney to have your questions answered.

EB-5 Program Extended With No Change (At Least Until September)

Posted on: March 26, 2018 by in EB-5
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This is great news! In mid-March, President Trump signed the Omnibus Appropriations Bill, which renews and extends the EB-5 Investor Visa Program through September 30, 2018.

You’re about to read a brief introduction to the EB-5 Investor Visa Program, and you’ll learn why the program’s extension is so important to so many.

The EB-5 program offers permanent U.S. residency to international investors who make a substantial investment in a U.S.-based business and create at least ten full-time jobs.

WHAT ARE THE MINIMUM EB-5 INVESTMENT AMOUNTS?

The investment amount must be at least $1 million in most parts of the country – or a minimum $500,000 in selected rural or high-unemployment areas.

The EB-5 Investor Visa Program was created in the 1990’s to encourage investors to put substantial amounts of capital into U.S.-based business ventures.

Only 10,000 EB-5 visas are made available each year. International investors should understand that it may take some time to acquire an EB-5 visa, so you should speak with an immigration attorney as quickly as possible.

An EB-5 visa does not require a labor certification or a sponsor. It creates permanent lawful residency (and a path to U.S. citizenship) for the investor and his or her immediate family.

However, finding the right investment and qualifying for the EB-5 Investor Visa Program will require an experienced visa attorney’s sound legal guidance.

WHY WOULD AN EB-5 VISA PETITION BE REJECTED?

The three leading reasons that EB-5 visa petitions are rejected include:

  • an incomplete or inaccurate visa application
  • a lack of required financial, educational, and employment records
  • a chosen investment option that does not qualify for the EB-5 program

EB-5 visa applicants also must show that the investment money was legally obtained, a requirement which prevents criminal funds from going into legitimate U.S. business investments.

WHAT CHANGES ARE BEING CONSIDERED TO THE EB-5 PROGRAM?

If you are an international investor who is interested in the EB-5 program, now is the time to learn more and obtain assistance from an experienced Las Vegas immigration attorney.

The extension does not introduce any new requirements into the EB-5 program, although a number of changes have been proposed over the last several years.

It’s possible that changes to the EB-5 program will be made when the current extension expires in September.

Those proposals include increasing the minimum investment requirement to $925,000, setting aside visas specifically for rural investment projects, and increasing the safeguards against fraud.

The changes have been rejected, at least for now, and the EB-5 program remains unchanged at least until September.

That means now is the time to find an appropriate investment and apply for an EB-5 visa.

HOW CAN AN IMMIGRATION LAWYER HELP?

An experienced Las Vegas immigration attorney can verify that your investment qualifies for the EB-5 program, review your visa petition and the accompanying documents, and see to it that you meet all EB-5 requirements.

Because only 10,000 EB-5 visas are offered each year – and because changes to the program may be coming in September – you can’t let any misunderstandings or mistakes or hold up or halt your investment plans.

The U.S. economy is booming at the moment. There’s probably never been a better time to make a substantial investment.

To learn more, speak promptly – from anywhere in the world – with a U.S. immigration lawyer who can answer your questions and help you participate in the EB-5 Investor Visa Program.