Articles Posted in Immigration Assistance

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At around this time of the year, there is a split among foreign nationals and U.S. companies. Approximately one-third of them are celebrating the fact that their H-1B petitions were selected in the lottery, and the remaining two-thirds are either still anxiously awaiting notice that their petitions have been selected or bemoaning the fact that their petitions were not selected. If your H-1B was not selected in this year’s lottery (or last year or the year before that), do not panic just yet. There may be a multitude of other visa options available to you if you still want to live and work in the United States.stack of paper

Possible H-1B Visa Alternatives:  Other Work Visas

The H-1B visa, while very popular, is by no means the only employment-based visa available to foreign national workers. If the worker has been employed by a foreign company that also has a branch, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate operation in the United States, the worker may qualify for an L-1 visa. There are two types of L-1s:  L-1A visas for executives and managers, and L-1B visas for workers who possess specialized knowledge. The L-1A can also be used by an executive to come to the United States to open a new office for the foreign company.

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1342516_flag.jpgThe nonpartisan immigrant-rights advocacy group Voto Latino is dedicated to empowering young Latinos to help them build better futures for their communities and themselves in the United States. The organization has joined with the groups Pro Bono Net and Immigration Advocates Network to develop Citizenshipworks, an online provider of user friendly Internet tools that are aimed at assisting low and moderate income foreign nationals in deciphering the complex U.S. immigration laws in order to determine if they qualify for citizenship.

Citizenshipworks

According to the organizations, Citizenshipworks is an online platform that works to reduce the existing geographic, language, and economic barriers faced by foreign nationals and in particular the Latino millennial demographic. The new platform will include a mobile app for use on a smart phone or similar devices, and will assist lawful permanent residents (green card holders) in determining their eligibility to become U.S. citizens through a legal process called naturalization. If it is determined that a lawful permanent resident qualifies for naturalization, the platform will also assist the resident in completing the required application. There will also be a function that will allow interested users to connect with local nonprofit legal services providers.

Voto Latino

Voto Latino will work to promote the new online platform within the Latino millennial community. The initial outreach efforts will be based out of New York and the final goal is to release the platform and mobile app on a national scale by the middle of the year.
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children-crossing-border.bmpImmigration to the U.S. is not a new phenomenon, but the recent influx to the U.S. by tens of thousands of young Central Americans in the summer of 2014 was notable. Over the past few years, the number of illegal border crossings had leveled off, even declined over the past few years. What were some of the reasons that motivated the dramatic rise of people from Central America crossing the border illegally in the past few months?

Right now, several Central American countries, namely as Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, have been experiencing an increase in violence as young children are being recruited by dangerous gangs, while others have been threatened by them. Smugglers have taken advantage of the situation and the despair of parents, and effectively spread false rumors that the U.S. Government passed a new law that allows children from Central American countries to stay in the United States as long as they arrived alone to the country.

These false rumors originated not only from the smugglers or “coyotes” seeking to increase business, but also from the misinterpretation of the law by immigrants who are already in the United States and communicate with their families. The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act is a 2008 law which protects children from countries that do not share a border with the United States by giving them the right to have an immigration hearing in order to decide whether they can stay in the country or if they should be deported, but it is important to note that this law does not guarantee that the child will remain in the U.S.

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196716_files.jpgMany foreign workers obtain their green cards by finding a U.S. employer to sponsor them for permanent residence. Most employment-based cases are completed through the Labor Certification process, which is also commonly referred to as the PERM process.

What is the PERM Process?

At first glance, the PERM process can seem quite complicated. The process requires a U.S. employer to place a series of job advertisements in various sources in order to try to recruit U.S. workers. The PERM advertisements themselves must fulfill certain content requirements, must be placed in certain avenues, and must run for a specific amount of time.

The purpose of this recruitment process (and the PERM process itself) is to confirm that there are no willing, qualified, and available U.S. workers who could fill the job that is offered to the foreign worker. Now, if the foreign worker happens to be related to the U.S. employer, the PERM process can become even trickier. The reason for this is because the U.S. Department of Labor is of the mindset that if a familial relationship exists between the employer and the beneficiary of the PERM process, it is possible that the employer’s recruitment efforts may not be exactly legitimate or valid, thereby not fulfilling the purpose of the PERM. Essentially, the DOL wants to ensure that a U.S. employer does not bend the PERM rules in order to help the foreign relative qualify for permanent residence.
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1416931_untitled.jpgIn light of the current medical and public health crisis that is affecting West Africans in three countries, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is constantly monitoring the Ebola outbreak and has proposed relief measures to assist those African nationals who are currently in the United States.

USCIS is taking these relief measures in large part due to the humanitarian concern for the African nationals but also as a practical matter. Since many airlines are no longer flying to the affected areas, it would not be fair to label the stranded African nationals as immigration law violators because they are forced to remain in the country through no fault of their own due to extraordinary circumstances beyond their control.

What are the Proposed Relief Measures?

USCIS has proposed that the following relief measures be made available to nationals from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, the three countries that are currently most adversely affected by the Ebola outbreak.
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stop-sign-1334670-m.jpgAs no doubt everyone is aware, the U.S. federal government is currently in “shutdown” – meaning that many of its agencies and offices are closed (or severely understaffed) until further notice. The shutdown occurred because Congress could not agree on a budget necessary to fund all of the government’s services and operations. The government shutdown will remain in effect until Congress passes a budget.

The federal government oversees and processes all types of immigration applications, including green card petitions and requests for visas. The shutdown has greatly affected many immigration applications and services as described below:

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

USCIS officers review and process all immigration applications for family-based and employment-based cases that are filed in the United States. In general, Congress does not allocate funds for USCIS operations, as the agency is largely funded by the filing fees it collects from foreign nationals or companies who files immigration applications. Due to this arrangement, USCIS will continue processing applications in largely the same manner as before the government shutdown.
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waste-paper-499987-m.jpgIn the wake of comprehensive immigration reform and the prospect of new opportunities for foreign nationals to qualify for U.S. permanent residence (green cards), the immigrant community has begun to combat “notarios.”

Notarios are individuals who are posing as immigration attorneys, immigration experts, or immigration consultants. In this position, the notario charges the foreign national often very, very high rates to prepare applications for immigration benefits and either does not perform the promised service or, even worse, provides ineffective service that actually hurts or weakens the foreign national’s immigration opportunities. In fact, some notarios damage cases so badly that the foreign nationals ends up incarcerated or deported, often separating U.S. citizens from their foreign family members.

At the present time, there is not a federal law in place that criminalizes the unauthorized practice of immigration law. Because of this, immigration advocate groups have found it difficult to prosecute notarios or obtain redress or other forms of compensation for the immigrants that have been adversely affect by the notario’s action (or inaction) with their case.
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inside-the-esb-2-905831-m.jpgThe U.S. Department of State has recently issued its September 2013 Visa Bulletin, which is a monthly bulletin that publishes the current “priority dates” for each of the immigration preference categories. The concept of priority dates is very important in immigration law as it determines how long it will take for a foreign national to obtain a green card.

What is a Priority Date?

There is not an unlimited number of green cards given out each year. Congress has set firm numerical limits on how many foreign nationals can receive green cards every year and divided its green card allotments among different preference categories. For example, one of the categories is the employment-based third preference category (EB-3), which is further subdivided into countries of origin. To qualify for the EB-3 category, the foreign national need only possess a Bachelor’s degree or two years of work experience/training.

Because there are more foreign nationals who qualify for an EB-3 green card than there are green cards available in a given year, this category has become “backlogged” and many foreign nationals in this category have to wait until a green card number is available to them. Many of the preference categories are similarly backlogged, which has resulted in long wait times for many foreign nationals.
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Social_Support_for_Underprivileged_Children_and_Victims_of_Trafficking.jpg“Human trafficking” involves both the forced movement of people into, out of, and within the United States; as well as those individuals’ forced labor in various industries and the sex trade. The issue has gained prominence as a matter of national and international concern in recent years. Most laws addressing the issue cover criminal penalties for involvement in trafficking and programs to support anti-trafficking efforts and assist victims. At least one state law, along with a bill introduced in the U.S. Congress in 2011, requires certain businesses to disclose their anti-trafficking initiatives. Businesses that employ immigrant workers or that deal in national or international commerce should be aware of these laws, both in Ohio and at the federal level.

Human Trafficking Statistics

Definitive statistics on the number of people trafficked through or within the United States are practically impossible to obtain, in large part because the practice remains shrouded in mystery. The U.S. Department of State has estimated that up to 27 million people worldwide are victims of trafficking for the sex trade and other industries, such as agriculture or manufacturing. At the same time, these statistics remain estimates, and few cases become actual case studies. The Ohio Attorney General’s office states that as many as 100,000 children may be trafficked in the U.S. as part of the sex trade, although its study had a total survey sample of 207 children.

Legal Prohibitions

The federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 directs the government to provide resources for anti-trafficking programs, sanctions against countries that do not work to prevent trafficking, and support for victims of trafficking. The Ohio Legislature passed the Safe Harbor Law, House Bill 262, recently, which contains similar provisions for anti-trafficking initiatives. It also contains penalty enhancements for criminal trafficking charges and a pre-trial diversion program for trafficked children.
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file9261235663269.jpgOn March 1, 2013, the sequester took effect. Though it has been well over a month since the budget cuts began, Congress has not resolved the budgetary issues that led to the abrupt cuts to a wide range of federal programs. These cuts, which have already caused losses of jobs and services, will potentially affect immigration, not only through the agencies that process applications and petitions, but also by delaying airlines and border checkpoints. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano expressed concern to the Senate Appropriations Committee regarding the impact of the sequester on national security, and the White House warned of travel delays and other negative effects.

What is Sequestration?

The sequester is part of the Budget Control Act passed by Congress and signed by the President during one of many feuds over the federal budget in August 2011. It consists of automatic spending cuts scheduled to begin at 11:59 p.m. on March 1, unless Congress and the President could reach a different agreement before then. It was intended to be something sufficiently harsh, given the extent and speed of the spending cuts, to give everyone involved an incentive to find a compromise. That did not happen, and the sequester is now in effect.
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