Same-Sex Partners Eligible for Immigration Benefits

On June 26th, 2013, the United States Supreme Court issued its ruling in United States v. Windsor, also known as the DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) case. In its decision, the Supreme Court held that the federal law’s provision that limited the federal definition of “marriage” as only between one man and one woman was unconstitutional. This paves the way for over one thousand federal benefits to be bestowed upon same-sex couples who are legally married.

As the immigration laws in the U.S. are controlled by the federal government, this ruling also affects same-sex couples in the immigration context. Janet Napolitano, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees all immigration applications in the U.S., stated, “Working with our federal partners, including the Department of Justice, we will implement today’s decision so that all married couples will be treated equally and fairly in the administration of our immigration laws.” In other words, same-sex partners of U.S. Citizens will be able to apply for green cards based on their marriage, just as heterosexual couples currently do. In addition, in immigration removal proceedings, certain applications for relief that rely on a showing of hardship to the U.S. Citizen spouse will also be open to same-sex couples. There are multiple avenues that are now open to same-sex couples, and you should be sure to consult with an immigration attorney prior to filing applications for immigration benefits.

We have been watching this issue as it has progressed through the courts. We applaud the Supreme Court’s decision, as it has opened the door for thousands of same-sex couples to seek the right to obtain immigration status in the U.S. We are ready to speak with individuals who may have questions regarding how the Supreme Court’s ruling could affect their particular situation. If you are in a same-sex relationship and would like to discuss your immigration situation, please give us a call at 1-888-233-7002 and we will gladly discuss your case with you and see if we will be able to help.

Immigration Reform Bill to be taken up by U.S. Senate in June

The Senate’s immigration reform bill has been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, after enduring an extensive mark-up. The Judiciary Committee considered 300 proposed amendments over a two week period, and the bill is now set to hit the Senate floor. The Senate is planning to begin work on the immigration bill the week of June 10, while the House of Representatives is expected to simultaneously work on a bill that could potentially pass by the end of the summer.

While the new immigration laws will undoubtedly open up a pathway to citizenship to millions, they are also expected to eliminate some current options for many immigrants. Under current U.S. law, U.S. citizens can petition for their siblings and unmarried adult children. The wait for these petitions can take more than a decade, but the option exists, for now. Under the Senate’s proposed immigration reform bill, the waiting list for other family-based visas will speed up, but it will eliminate 70,000 green cards annually for siblings and unmarried adult children of U.S. citizens. For those U.S. citizens with foreign national siblings and adult children, it would be wise to apply for your family members before this bill becomes a law.

The attorneys at Goldstein & Associates are tracking the proposals for immigration reform closely. While the Senate’s bill is expected to be worked on as early as next week, the House of Representatives is expected to propose its own version of immigration reform simultaneously, which could pass by the end of the summer. If you would like more information on how the new immigration laws could affect you, please contact our office by phone or email us at mgoldstein@mglaw.com.

Bipartisan Plan for Immigration Reform

A new plan created by a group of bipartisan senators focuses on border control, job protection, and other issues in immigration reform.

In January, a document was released by bipartisan Senators Michael Bennet, Dick Durbin, Jeff Flake, Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Robert Menendez and Marco Rubio. This document laid out the foundation for updates to the United States’ immigration laws, including laws pertaining to illegal immigrants already living in the U.S.

Four Basic Legislative Pillars

  • Create a tough but fair path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants currently living in the United States that is contingent upon securing our borders and tracking whether legal immigrants have left the country when required;
  • Reform  our  legal  immigration  system  to  better  recognize  the importance  of characteristics  that  will  help  build  the  American economy  and  strengthen American families;
  • Create an effective employment verification system that will prevent identity theft and end the hiring of future unauthorized workers; and,
  • Establish an improved process for admitting future workers to serve our nation’s workforce needs, while simultaneously protecting all workers.

The plan also includes improved technology for the Border Control and steps to reduce racial profiling and violence.

Updates for Immigrants in the U.S.

What does this mean for immigrants currently living in the U.S.? Illegal immigrants are asked to register with the government for probationary legal status, dependent on a background check and including a fine. The plan aims to continue to welcome the “best and brightest” to the U.S., awarding green cards to those who hold Ph.D. or Master’s degree in science, technology, engineering, or math from an American University.

To read the entire transcript, visit the ABC news website. As you search for answers on citizenship, our goal is to arm you with the knowledge you need to know. If you have any questions on how the latest updates on immigration reform affect you or your family, contact us at mgoldstein@mglaw.com or 1-412-258-8080.

 

Updated USCIS Procedures for Unlawful Presence Provisional Waivers

Illegal immigrants who have family in the United States can now remain on U.S. soil as they wait for their visa interview, thanks to provisional unlawful presence waivers.

Select immigrant visa applicants who are immediate relatives of U.S. citizens can now reduce the amount of time they must spend away from family members as they wait to become lawful citizens themselves. The Department of Homeland Security recently announced that, as of March 4, 2013, applicants can now apply for provisional stateside waivers (provisional unlawful presence waivers) while they are still in the United States.

Immigration Process Changes

Before March 4, applicants who were not able to adjust their status in the U.S. had to travel abroad while waiting for their immigrant visa. This often meant spending years away from their family members in the U.S.

The process of obtaining a visa remains the same, with applicants required to leave the U.S. for their immigrant visa interview in their home country. And, although this process is a convenient opportunity for applicants who are approved, the provisional nature of this waiver means that the process is extremely selective. Many applicants will be denied with no chance to appeal or reconsider. Submitting completed forms is extremely important to decrease the chance of denial. If their application for visa is still pending at the point of their denial, they may submit a new provisional statewide waiver application.

Waiver Eligibility Requirements

  • Applicants must be 17 years of age or older and an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen (spouses, children and parents)
  • Applicants must be able to prove that their immediate family member with U.S. citizenship would experience hardship in the case that they would not be admitted into the U.S.
  • As immigration attorneys, we’re here to help with every step of the process

To review all of the eligibility requirements for a provisional unlawful presence waiver, visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website. If you would like more information on this process, to find out if it fits your needs or to begin this process, please email us at mgoldstein@mglaw.com.

New Policy Allows Immigrants Who Entered as Children to Remain in U.S.

On June 15, 2012, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the U.S. agency that oversees all immigration enforcement, announced that certain people who came to the United States as children would be eligible to apply for something known as deferred action, so long as they met other requirements as well. Deferred action means that even if you are in the United States illegally, DHS will not try and deport you and send you home for two years. If you are given deferred action, it will be valid for two years, and you would be eligible to apply to work legally in the United States as well.

There are a few rules that cover whether you are eligible for this new policy. The following list are some of the factors that you need to look at when determining if you would fall under this policy, and our office can help you determine whether or not you have a good case for this type of application.

  1. Were you younger than 31 years old on June 15, 2012?
  2. Did you come to the United States before you turned 16 years old?
  3. Have you resided in the United States since June 15, 2007 and still live here today?
  4. Were you in the United States on June 15, 2012? Will you be in the United States when you file your application?
  5. Did you enter without having a U.S. immigration officer give you permission?
  6. Did you have permission and a legal status, but it expired and you stayed longer?
  7. Are you currently in school?
  8. Have you graduated, or have you obtained a certificate of completion from a high school in the United States?
  9. If you did not finish high school, have you gotten your GED?
  10. If you did not finish school, and you also do not have your GED, are you an honorably discharged veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard or another branch of the Armed Forces?There is one more step, and these answers need to be “No” to be eligible:
  11. Have you been convicted of a felony?
  12. Have you been convicted of a significant misdemeanor?
  13. Have you been convicted of three or more misdemeanors?
  14. Do you pose a threat to national security or public safety?

Our firm is prepared to assist individuals who believe they are eligible for the new deferred action explained in this letter. There are many factors that need to be reviewed, to make sure that you fit each specific rule for this program. We can assist with things such as whether you have continuous residence, what documents should be submitted, etc.

We never charge someone to come and talk to us about his or her issues, so there is no risk is calling us. We will do our best to help you apply for this program, but if you are not eligible, we will help you determine what else you may be eligible for, so that you can still apply for legal status in the United States.

US Supreme Court Rejects BIA Deportation Waiver Policy As Arbitrary and Capricious

US Supreme Court Rejects BIA Deportation Waiver Policy As Arbitrary and Capricious

Last week, the US Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Judulang v. Holder struck down the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) approach for deciding when non-citizens are eligible for a discretionary waiver of deportation under section 212(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Mr. Judulang had been in proceedings to be removed from the United States on the ground that he had committed an “aggravated felony” involving a “crime of violence.” The BIA ruled that a “crime of violence” was not “comparable” to any ground for exclusion, rendering Mr. Judulang ineligible for Section 212(c) relief. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed this decision before it was accepted by the Supreme Court.

In its unanimous decision written by Justice Kagan, the Supreme Court held that the BIA policy for deciding when resident aliens may apply to the Attorney General for relief from deportation under INA section 212(c) is “arbitrary and capricious.” The Court highlighted that:

“The comparable-grounds approach does not rest on any factors relevant to whether an alien (or any group of aliens) should be deported. It instead distinguishes among aliens – decides who should be eligible for discretionary relief and who should not – solely by comparing the metes and bounds of diverse statutory categories in which an alien falls. The resulting Venn diagrams have no connection to the goals of the deportation process or the rational operation of the immigration laws.”

In conclusion, the Court ruled,

“We must reverse an agency policy when we cannot discern a reason for it. That is the trouble in this case. The BIA’s comparable-grounds rule is unmoored from the purposes and concerns of the immigration laws. It allows an irrelevant comparison between statutory provisions to govern a matter of the utmost importance—whether lawful resident aliens with longstanding ties to this country may stay here. And contrary to the Government’s protestations, it is not supported by text or practice or cost considerations. The BIA’s approach therefore cannot pass muster under ordinary principles of administrative law.

Goldstein & Associates, LLC applauds this decision of the US Supreme Court, which marks the end of a policy that turned many deportation cases into a sport of chance. As practitioners that work with complex deportation and removal cases, the attorneys at Goldstein & Associates know the importance of just decisions such as this one. As the case law develops with regard to deportation defense and litigation, we strive to uncover ways to apply new precedent decisions so that they may benefit our existing clients. In Judalong, the Supreme Court strengthened the framework of our immigration laws in a way that will allow for fair hearings on discretionary waiver of deportation cases under former section 212(c) of the INA.

New Waiver Procedures for Certain Undocumented Immigrants Announced

On January 6, 2012, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced its intention to change its current process for certain applications for waivers of inadmissibility filed in connection with an immediate relative immigrant visa application. Specifically, USCIS proposed policy changes which will allow certain immediate relatives of U.S. citizens (ie: individuals unlawfully present in the United States who entered the U.S. without inspection) to request provisional waivers under section 212(a)(9)(B)(v) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, prior to departing the United States for consular processing of their immigrant visa applications.

Under current procedures, an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen with an approved Petition for Alien Relative (I-130), must depart the United States and file their permanent resident application and waiver of inadmissibility application at the appropriate U.S. consulate or embassy in their home country. This process causes the foreign national to remain outside the United States while the waiver application is being processed, which frequently takes more than a year. U.S. citizens are often separated from their family members during this long wait.

The proposed new process is intended to reduce the time that U.S. citizens are separated from immediate relatives during the lengthy process of obtaining a waiver of inadmissibility. Under the new procedures, an immediate relative with an approved I-130 will be able to remain in the United States while the waiver of inadmissibility is processing. The spouses and children of U.S. citizens who are eligible for a visa to immigrate legally to the United States, but who need a waiver of inadmissibility for unlawful presence in order to obtain that visa expeditiously, would apply for a provisional waiver before leaving the United States to have their immigrant visa application processed at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.

The attorneys and staff at Goldstein & Associates have successfully obtained numerous waivers of inadmissibility for our clients. This new policy will not change the way we prepare the substance of a waiver application; it will still be based on proving that the U.S. citizen qualifying relative will suffer extreme hardship if the waiver application is not approved. The change, and the main benefit of this new process for adjudicating waivers, will be that our clients will not be separated for lengthy periods of time during this difficult process. Goldstein & Associates applauds USCIS for proposing this change, and eagerly awaits its implementation.