Monday, October 31, 2016

New Immigration fees

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Will my immigration fees increase?


Fees for immigration transactions will increase by an average of 21 percent beginning on December 23, 2016.

Applications or petitions mailed, postmarked, or otherwise filed on or after December 23, 2016 must include the new fees.

While the fees for some petitions will remain the same, others will see significant increases. According to USCIS, the fee increase was necessary because the agency did not receive additional Congressional appropriations to cover the costs associated with the Refugee, Asylum, and International Operations Directorate (RAIO), the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program (other than what user fees cover), and the Office of Citizenship. USCIS assumed it would continue to receive Congressional appropriations for these programs, but the funding didn’t materialize.

Without the funding from Congress, the agency will have to cover all costs with money generated from increased fees. For many years advocates have argued that user fees cannot be expected to cover USCIS’s entire budget and that Congress needs to appropriate additional funds. But instead we see a 21 percent increase in fees.

A full list of the new fees is available upon request from LEGiTiGO, but here are a few highlights:
Although certain naturalization applicants will receive reduced fees, the cost of various naturalization-related forms will increase significantly. This may present a barrier to naturalization, or to obtaining documents proving citizenship, for some people who cannot afford the new fees.
◾There is a new three-level fee for naturalization applications (Form N-400). The standard fee will increase from $595 to $640 (not including the biometrics fee). A reduced fee of $320 will be charged to naturalization applicants with family income greater than 150 percent but not more than 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines. No fee will be charged to certain applicants with military service or with approved fee waivers.
◾The fee for an Application for Certificate of Citizenship (N-600) will increase from $600 to $1,170. The fee for the Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document (N-565) will increase from $345 to $555.

The fees for immigrant investors will increase significantly. This could make the U.S. less appealing for people looking for investment opportunities.
◾An Application for Regional Center Designation under the Immigrant Investor Program will be increased from $6,230 to $17,795, and a new fee of $3,035 is created to process the annual certification of a Regional Center (Form I-924A).
◾The fee for an Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur (I-526) will increase from $1,500 to $3,675.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Expired Visa

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If my visa has run out but my I-94 hasn’t, when do I need to leave the U.S.?


I’m here in the U.S. on an H-1B visa, which I just realized ran out last week. But my I-94 shows that I have three years to stay and work in the United States. Have I done something wrong? Do I need to renew the visa?


The date on your I-94 is the one to go by.
No need to panic, you have not done anything wrong. Contrary to widespread misperception, a “visa” is simply a U.S. entry document. The date on it literally shows the last date upon which you could show up at a U.S. airport or border and request entry. It has nothing to do with the date by which you must leave the United States.

As you were probably figuring, the date you must leave the U.S. is that entered by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer who met you at the U.S. airport or border. He or she would have put the date on your Form I-94 card (Arrival/Departure Record). Before April 2013, all nonimmigrants visiting the U.S. received a paper I-94. After this date, the vast majority of U.S. visitors will not receive a card and can instead access this information online

It is not uncommon for a visa to run out before the I-94 does (except in cases of multiple entry visitor visas, which typically last for several years). You are completely within your rights to stay within the U.S. until the date on your I-94.

If your employer wants to keep you on longer than three years, you should be able to apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for a “extension of status.” Upon approval, USCIS will issue a new I-94, with a date even farther into the future. (Be sure to submit this application at least three months before your I-94 will expire, to give USCIS time to process it.)

One thing you should be aware of, however, is that if you leave the U.S. and your visa has expired, you will need to get a new visa for U.S. reentry. The exception is if you’re going to Canada or Mexico on a pleasure trip for a visit of fewer than 30 days, in which case, as an H-1B visa holder, your valid I-94 and passport are enough. This is called “automatic visa revalidation.” It is not available to nationals of Iran, Syria, Sudan, or Cuba.

Renewing a visa requires going to the U.S. consulate, preferably in your home country, to apply. As long as you have maintained your status in the U.S., and received approval from USCIS for any extension , this should not be a problem – but allow some time for this step, just in case. Bring the USCIS Form I-797 notice, a copy of the visa petition filed by your employer, and the usual visa application documents, passport photos, fees, and your passport, valid for at least six months beyond the date you will leave the United States. You will likely need to make an appointment with the consulate.

Consult with an experienced immigration attorney if you have any questions, or need help preparing any application paperwork.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Small Business

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Is It Illegal for an Undocumented Immigrant to Start a U.S. Business?

I’m in the U.S. with no immigration papers, and have been helping my aunt in her restaurant. Now I’d like to branch out on my own, with a food truck. How much legal trouble will this get me into?


Welcome to one of the great unresolved questions of immigration law. You’re asking the same question as thousands of other undocumented business owners probably did. Many of them went ahead and started businesses anyway – and have, for the most part, encountered few barriers from government regulators, banks and institutional lenders, or even the immigration enforcement authorities.

Here’s the deal: U.S. immigration law (which is federal, meaning it’s followed throughout the country), does not say anywhere that an undocumented immigrant is barred from owning a business. The law makes being in the U.S. without permission unlawful by itself, of course; this act is punishable by deportation and various bars on return to the U.S. after removal or other departure.  But there have been cases where an undocumented person was caught in the U.S. and business ownership was actually viewed as a point in their favor when defending against deportation.

The law also makes it illegal for someone to employ an undocumented worker.  This comes from the Immigration Reform and Control Act, or IRCA (found at 8 U.S. Code Section 1324a.) Businesses that hire undocumented workers  may be sanctioned with fines, asset forfeitures, and in instances of repeated violations, criminal arrest. But the enforcement authorities have apparently not tried to use this section of IRCA to argue that a business owner is employing him- or herself. (Still, it could happen.)

The bottom line is that no lawyer can confidently tell you that it is illegal to start a business if you are an undocumented person in the U.S. – and by the same token, no lawyer can advise you to go ahead and do so. (That shouldn’t stop you from consulting a lawyer to find out the latest word on this matter, however, and whether you might have other options to regularize your immigration status.)

Whatever you do, make sure to abide by other U.S. laws governing small businesses, such as those regarding permits, health codes, labor laws, and so forth. Submit your questions for “Small Business” in LEGiTiGO’s website for more information.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Fee Waiver

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Can my family ask USCIS to waive the green-card application fees?


I’m a U.S. citizen who just got married to a woman from Mexico.  She has three Mexican-born young children from a past husband. They all came to the U.S.  a few years ago, on tourist visas. I want to help my new family get green cards, but I don’t have enough for the adjustment of status application fees – it adds up to hundreds of dollars! Can we get a fee waiver so we don’t have to pay?


There are some applications for which it’s possible to ask U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to waive the fees -- but this isn't one of them. USCIS will not even consider a fee waiver request for Form I-485 if it's from an applicant who must prove that he or she is not likely to become a public charge – that is, receive need-based government assistance (including what many people call “welfare”)

The trouble is, every family-based applicant for U.S. lawful permanent residence (a green card) faces the challenge of proving that it’s unlikely he or she will become a “public charge.” Those who fail in this task are considered "inadmissible," or ineligible for a U.S. green card.

In order to prove that an applicant is unlikely to become a public charge, the U.S. citizen petitioner is required to submit an “Affidavit of Support” on USCIS Form I-864, showing the ability and willingness to support the immigrants (and any other dependents) at 125% or more of the U.S. Poverty Guidelines.

It sounds like, from what you’ve described, you would need to show sufficient income to support a family of five. The required amount changes every year, but you can expect to have to show an income of over $30,000 a year.

Are you and your new family stuck? Possibly not, but your best bet is likely to find a friend or family member who is willing to help out financially and sign an additional Form I-864 for your wife and stepchildren. That’s a lot to ask of someone, as described in “What Sponsors Should Know Before Signing Form I-864 Affidavit of Support.”

While you’re at it, you might want to ask that person to lend you money for the application fees.  The good news is that as soon as you have submitted the adjustment of status applications, your wife will be able to receive a U.S. work permit, so perhaps could contribute to the family income. Her income will count toward yours, in this situation.

For more information on this entire process, consult an experienced immigration attorney. (Yes, attorneys cost money too, but they usually charge flat fees in this type of case, so you can plan ahead – and maximize your chances that the cases will be approved.)

Monday, October 3, 2016

Green Card Info

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Can I as a Permanent Residents Vote?
One of the most important privileges of democracy in the United States of America is
the right to participate in choosing elected officials through voting. As a Permanent
Resident you can only vote in local and state elections that do not require you to be
a U.S. citizen.
It is very important that you do not vote in national, state or local elections that require a voter to be a U.S. citizen when you are not a U.S. citizen. There are criminal penalties for voting when you are not a U.S. citizen and it is a requirement for voting. You can be removed (deported) from the U.S. if you vote in elections limited to U.S. citizens.
Becoming a permanent resident of the United States is a wonderful thing, however,
all Legal Permanent Residents should remember that they must maintain their status at
all times. Your status in the United States is not guaranteed and certain actions may
cause you to lose your green card status or be deported from the United States.
Do Not Vote Unless You Are a U.S. Citizen
When applicants obtain green cards in the U.S., this entitles them to apply for a driver’s license. In  many states, when individuals apply for driver’s licenses, they are asked if they would like to register to vote.
Many immigrants understandably assume at this point that they are entitled to vote because voter registration has been offered to them. They register to vote and, in some cases, actually vote in national and local elections.
When these individuals apply for citizenship at a later date, they are asked if they have ever registered to vote or voted in an election. Since only citizens are allowed to vote in the U.S., voting or even registering to vote may be grounds for denial of an application for citizenship and revocation of a green card. When a green card is revoked, the individual may be placed in deportation proceedings.
If you have any questions regarding permanent residency or any other immigration
topic, please contact LEGiTiGO, today