Information on Afghanistan – what you need to know

Hundreds of Afghan families and individuals wait to board evacuation flights out of Kabul, Afghanistan.

 

Disclaimer: The following message is not offered as official legal advice, but rather to inform on the situation in Afghanistan, and provide general information on available resources. If you or a loved one needs legal advice on this issue, we strongly urge you to contact our offices as soon as possible.

 

What is happening in Afghanistan?

The situation in Afghanistan is extreme and complicated. The Taliban is in control of almost the entire country, creating serious constraints on the US government’s evacuation of US citizens, workers, and allies. It is reported that the US embassy is closed and has been completely evacuated. US citizens have been urged to make their way to Kabul airport in order to evacuate the country. This means that the only US authority still present in the country is located in and around that airport.

 

Dates and deadlines

President Biden’s Administration has publicly stated the US will continue its evacuation from Kabul airport until August 31st at the latest. This is still the current course of action, regardless of the Taliban’s claim on blocking flights from taking off. At this time, US forces and personal are still processing “Special Immigrant Visas”(SIV) on the ground at the airport. 

 

What are my current options to get to the United States?

There are, generally, two main situations facing those who wish to travel to the United States from Afghanistan at this time.

  1. For those who can leave Afghanistan, by one way or another, and fear staying in Afghanistan due to the Taliban takeover, entering the United States or a third country will potentially offer multiple options. For individuals who can make it to the US, there is the possibility of applying for asylum or other benefits of US immigration law. For those who can leave Afghanistan and travel to a third country, it would be helpful to contact a US embassy or consulate in that country and inquire about ways to gain admission into the US; such as through the United States Refugee Admissions Program, submitting an application for parole into the US based on humanitarian grounds, etc.
  1. For those who cannot find a way to leave the country, Kabul airport is possibly the only option for leaving. If you or the people you know can make it to the airport and gain entrance, it would greatly increase the chances of your/their evacuation to Doha, Qatar, and, from there, to the United States or other countries.

 

What now?

At this time the situation is incredibly dangerous and unpredictable. Kabul itself is in chaos, and news from on the ground is not reaching the United States in real time. Yesterday, August 26, 2021, we learned there were a series of terrorist attacks on the Kabul Airport. It is unclear, at this time, how this will effect evacuations and remaining flights to the United States. We will continue to update the blog with new material as it is learned.

 

What we suggest

Goldstein & Associates urges all people involved to exercise great caution. For those who cannot or do not wish to attempt entry into the Kabul airport, we recommend contacting the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to find other options for evacuation.

 

The phone numbers for the protection hotline are:

079-069-1746 and  070-499-6168 (available on all working days)

You can also email their protection email atafgkaprt@unhcr.org.

 

Contact us for legal advice and free consultations

For specific legal advice about your relatives, please call our to set a free appointment with our experienced staff. Our numbers are 412-258-8080 and 215-982-2381. Please note, however, that due to Consular closures and backlogs, and severely limited immigration options under the current U.S. legal system for immigration to the United States, it may not be possible to obtain a visa at this time. Regardless, we will do our best to discuss your options and work towards finding a solution for your particular situation.

 

We are doing everything we can to help our clients with loved ones in Afghanistan, and are always willing to speak with those seeking to learn about what options may or may not be available.

 

If you or a loved one are in Afghanistan and are looking for a way to safely evacuate and come to the United States, we urge you to contact our office for legal guidance and to evaluate your options. We would be more than happy to connect you with a member of our staff to discuss your situation and come up with action plans during this chaotic time. You can call our Pittsburgh office at 412-258-8080, our Philadelphia office at 215-982-2381, or schedule a free phone or zoom consultation on our site using this link. We look forward to working with you. Keep safe.

What you need to know about the recent DACA ruling and its effects

Texas Judge, Andrew Hanen, who made the recent ruling against DACA pictured next to protesters in support of DACA and holding signs that read, “Defend Dreamers.”

 

This summer, a Texas judge made a ruling stating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is illegal and ordered government to cease processing new applications at this time.

The ruling stated that public comment was never taken into account for DACA, which makes it a violation of federal rulemaking. The judge who made the ruling, Judge Andrew Hanen, argued that President Obama exceeded his power by creating the program.

At the same time, smaller courts across the nation have the potential to make decisions against DACA recipients, using Judge Hanen’s ruling as support. There is a lot of uncertainty around how the ruling can and/or will be applied at lower-level courts, if at all. Let’s break down what DACA is and how it may affect you.

 

What is DACA?

DACA is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and it has protected around 800,000 undocumented young adults and children from deportation from the US. Specifically, it has allowed many children who were brought illegally into the US (or were of unlawful status at the time) to stay and secure work authorization. While the recipients, alternatively known as “Dreamers,” are not official legal citizens, the program allows them to apply for a driver’s license, social security number, and a work permit.

The program was started during the Obama Administration back in 2012. In the past decade, it has faced many legal battles. This ruling is not entirely new for the program in terms of obstacles faced along the way of its inception. At G&A, we do not believe this ruling should discourage for beginning the process of applying for DACA or renewing your application if you have been granted DACA in the past.

 

Who will be affected by this ruling?

Fortunately, current program recipients will not be affected by this ruling and can even continue to renew their DACA status. Similarly, if you have a pending DACA application (meaning you applied before the ruling became public), your application will still be processed for the time being. The Department of Homeland Security is temporarily not allowed to approve new applications for DACA. In addition, if a person’s DACA status has been expired for over a year, they will be considered a first-time applicant and their application will be placed on hold.

This is not the first time DACA has been met with backlash. The Trump Administration had stopped processing DACA applications before and later resumed processing them last winter, creating a major rise in cases in December and severely affected backlog. Current new applicants will be most affected by the recent ruling, since already there was backlog in cases, and now there is a full pause in accepting new applications once again.

 

What are the next steps?

Recently, the White House announced that the government will petition Judge Hanen’s decision against DACA. The Biden administration also announced that the Department of Homeland Security plans to release a proposed rule concerning DACA shortly.

Additionally, the Biden Administration pledged to challenge the decision at the US Court of Appeals’ 5th circuit, which is where the Texas district court is located. This case could even be taken up to the Supreme Court. Once more information is published on this progressing story, we will update the blog accordingly. Please check in periodically if this information affects you or a loved one.

 

This blog post was written by our Summer 2021 intern, Sami Semiatin. We hope this blog has been useful and informational for you. If you find yourself affected by this ruling, you are more than welcome to reach out to our firm. If you’d like to discuss details of DACA, if you are eligible for the program, if you are worried about your status or potential for first-time or renewal applications, and so on, please reach out to us and we can connect you with a member of our staff. We would be glad to assist you whether or not you are already a client with our firm. Please give us a call at our Pittsburgh office at 412-258-8080, our Philadelphia office at 215-982-2381, or schedule a free consultation on our site using this link. We look forward to working with you.

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U.S. Supreme Court’s New Ruling on Temporary Protected Status (TPS): What to look for

Protesters hold signs supporting dreamers and TPS outside of the U.S. Supreme Court. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

 

Within the United States, there are currently around 400,000 immigrants considered to be holding Temporary Protected Status, or TPS as known to many. Just last week, the US Supreme Court ruled that immigrants who entered the US illegally and received TPS are no longer able to apply for a green card solely based on holding TPS. This would have allowed for TPS receipients to become lawful permanent residents.

 

What is Temporary Protected Status (TPS)?

Under the TPS program, foreign nationals living in the United States are allowed to live and work (with an Employment Authorization Document – EAD) in the US due to unsafe and/or unstable conditions in their home countries. These conditions include ongoing conflict such as a civil war, environmental disaster, political upheaval or another extraordinary condition. 

 

There is a list of 12 countries which currently qualify for TPS. The Biden Administration has added two (2) more countries, Venezuela and Myanmar/Burma, to the list of TPS eligible countries. Other countries that currently qualify for TPS in the United States are El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. A full and exhaustive list of TPS eligible countries and their requirements can be found using the USCIS weblinks below.

 

Select the country link for additional information.

 

For more in depth information on TPS and whether or not you or a loved one qualify, please visit this USCIS link.

 

How does this change TPS moving forward?

The Supreme Court decision emphasizes the “temporary” in temporary protected status. The ruling is meant to clarify that those who were approved for TPS are seeking safety for a limited amount of time and TPS should not be used as a permanent pathway to a green card (permanent residency). 

 

I have TPS, am I affected by this ruling?

If you have come to the US due to war, natural disaster, or another form of instability in your home country and are seeking a pathway to a green card, this may affect you. We want to clarify that this Supreme Court decision does not change the status of current TPS recipients. It also does not mean that TPS individuals are unable to receive a green card at all. It does, however, make it more challenging for those who entered the US unlawfully to seek green card status. TPS recipients can apply for specific visas if they are a victim of serious crimes in their home nation or they also have the option of applying for asylum. Asylum applications are usually for individuals who fear persecution upon returning to their home country. This method can often times lead to an eventual green card, although it depends on specific case details that are different for everyone. This new ruling will make it much harder for many TPS holders to receive a green card based on TPS alone, as the bar is now much higher.

 

Additionally, those who entered the United States illegally and were granted TPS are now ineligible to seek permanent residency on that basis alone. However, if you were to enter legally and overstayed a visa for example, you can still apply to become a lawful permanent resident in the United States.

 

While this ruling changes the way we look at Temporary Protected Status and its future benefits, there’s no immediate need to worry. As a TPS foreign national, you still have the ability to apply and become a permanent resident and obtain your green card.

 

We hope you found this blog helpful and informational. As always, please reach out to our firm if you have any questions or concerns about your case, that of a loved one, or if you’d like to discuss details regarding TPS or Asylum with one of our trained professionals. We would be glad to assist you whether or not you are already a client with our firm. Please give us a call at our Pittsburgh office at 412-258-8080, our Philadelphia office at 215-982-2381, or schedule a free consultation on our site using this link. We look forward to working with you.

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Supporting our AAPI Community

This featured blogpost is a message of solidarity with our beloved members of the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Community as they process the recent tragedies in Atlanta, Georgia and all across the United States.

 

We stand with you, today and always.

 

Across the United States, Americans have seen a steady increase in the number of hate crimes specifically targeting the Asian American Pacific Islander community. These crimes have been on the rise and vary in levels of violence.

 

On March 16th, 2021, a white supremacist murdered several people in a mass shooting in Atlanta, GA, killing six (6) Asian women and two (2) others. This cannot be tolerated, nor can this crime go unpunished. As an organization that prides itself in our commitement to assist foreign nationals and immigrants from all over the world live and thrive in the United States, we cannot stand aside and silently watch our community struggle. Our AAPI community members deserve better. And we can do better.

 

If you see someone who is experiencing racism, discrimination, harassment, or even physical assault, please do not remain silent. Be an active bystander and report hate crimes. There are several resources to help you with this, but a few have been listed below:

  • www.stopaapihate.org
  • www.standagainsthatred.org

 

Make a contribution

If you would like to contribute to the community in another way, either by volunteering or making a donation, please feel free to research the following sources below that would aid the AAPI Community:

  • GoFundMe: www.gofundme.com/aapi
  • www.stopaapihate.org
  • Asian Americans Advancing Justice: www.advancingjustice-aajc.org
  • Red Canary Song: www.redcanarysong.net
  • New York Mag has a list of 45 ways you can donate to help the AAPI Community using this link: bit.ly/nymag-aapi

 

Mental health resources for AAPI Community Members

  • Asian Mental Health Collective: www.asianmhc.org
  • SAMHSA National Hotline: 800-662-HELP
  • National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA): www.nqapia.org
  • Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741
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I-944 Cancellation and what it means

Form I-944 in the background with a faded image that reads “Public Charge Form I-944” in bold lettering layered on top.

 

So by now, you may have heard that the public charge rule, I-944, is no longer required. There are a lot of questions in the community, so we’d like to give you some information on what is going on. You may be wondering what major changes you can expect to see, what happens with petitions that have already been filed before this new ruling, and so on. Before we answer those questions, let’s do a little background on the I-944 and what this used to mean for immigration policy.

 

The public charge rule, originally brought in in 2019, is no longer in place – effective immediately. This is good news. On March 9, 2021, USCIS officially declared they would stop enforcing the public charge rule, visible on their website. There have been a couple litigation challenges in several courts that turned out to be successful. Additionally, with Biden’s Administration halting the opposition to this ruling, we were able to see a turn in our favor. The Supreme Court announced they would no longer be pursuing the case, and as a result, District Courts began doing the same.

 

So what does this mean exactly?

Great question. It means that USCIS is no longer applying the harsh rule from 2019 that tested education, health, financial status, etc. and which made it quite easy for someone to become subject to public charge. For those who receive government benefits, but are hoping to sponsor family members (for example), this rule will no longer hinder your goals.

 

What happens now?

Now we will see USCIS going back to the original regulations from 1999. This still requires you to prove that you will not be a burden on the government, but you will no longer have to jump through the bureaucratic hoops you had to with this past rule. You can submit form I-864 and prove that you meet the public guidelines, depending on your household size.

 

In addition, questions regarding the public charge on other forms, such as sections of the I-539 and I-129 forms, are going to be excluded and will not have to be completed by the applicant / petitioner any longer.

 

What if I had already filed an application before this rule was overturned?

USCIS has stated they will not be applying the 2019 rule to any applications filed on or after March 9, 2021. You will not have to include form I-944 or any of the supporting documents previously required with this rule.

 

What if I had already filed an application before this rule was overturned and I’ve received an RFE or NOID since then?

If you received an RFE and the request specifically mentions or pertains to form I-944, you do not have to worry about it or respond. Keep in mind that this is only if the RFE specifically pertains to the I-944. If the RFE contains other information that they would like you to submit, you will still have to do so. If you have documents that are also applicable to other forms, such as the I-539 and I-129, that relate to the public charge, they are no longer required.

 

Where do we go from here?

You can work with your attorney to figure out if this rule cancellation affects you and what you will need to do if it does. This information is certainly subject to change, but for now, public charge is gone. Rejoice, but stay vigilant in your applications and the forms you are completing.

 

We hope this blog was helpful to you and at least made you aware of what USCIS is doing in terms of public charge rule changes. As always, please do not hesitate to reach out to our firm if you have any questions or concerns about your case. We would be glad to assist you whether or not you are already a client of our firm. Please give us a call at our Pittsburgh office at 412.258.8080, our Philadelphia office at 215-982-2381, or schedule a free consultation on our site using this link. We look forward to working with you.

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Receipt notice delays: A frustrating reality

 

A USCIS Receipt Notice lays on a table and showcases a receipt number, date, and notice date.

When you file cases with USCIS, you always receive a receipt notice in the mail documenting the delivery of your application or documentation. Recently, however, USCIS has been experiencing rapid delays in the issuance of receipt notices. They list the Covid-19 pandemic, an increase in case filings, and US postal delays as the main factors contributing to these delays.

 

According to their website, USCIS has declared delays of up to 4-6 weeks to receive a receipt notice. This is on top of the usual wait time of receipt notices, and for all application types, not just a select few. We are aware of other firms waiting on receipts for over 8 weeks, so if this is the case for you, do not panic. Speak to your attorney about these delays and remain calm. It is possible that these delays may be up to 10 weeks or more, although at Goldstein & Associates, LLC, we have not experienced issues to this degree – waiting a maximum of 6 weeks in delay for receipt notices for several clients, regardless of case type.

 

So what is USCIS doing to combat these delay issues, you may be asking?

Great question. They have stated that USCIS employees and officers are working overtime to meet the higher demand in application filings, in addition to shifting cases from specific locations to help lighten the load of specific offices. If you receive an unexpected Transfer Notice in the mail, this may be the reason for that development – and if so, it would only be to speed up the processing of your case.

 

What can you do to speed up this process, if anything at all?

Another great question. First, be patient, and trust in your attorneys who helped you prepare your applications. We know the process is frustrating, confusing, and lengthy. At G&A, all of our staff work long and hard to make sure there’s less for you to worry about. Unfortunately, we have no control over the processing times, or any delays that accompany them, but we are here for you. Don’t hesitate to give us a call or send your representative an email if you need some reassurance or peace of mind.

 

Another thing you can do is submit a G-1145 form, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance using this link. By filing this form attached to your application, you can receive email and text notifications from USCIS to help you keep track of any updates on your case. Please reach out to us for a free consultation if you would like help with this, or if you would like to go through our attorney services instead. If you are already a client of ours and are interested in this process, please contact your case representative to see if this method would work for your immigration goals.

 

We hope this blog was helpful to you and at least made you aware of USCIS receipt notice delays and issues that may be occurring due to Covid-19, US postal delays or other external factors. As always, please do not hesitate to reach out to our firm if you have any questions or concerns about your case. We would be glad to assist you whether or not you are already a client of our firm. Please give us a call at our Pittsburgh office at 412.258.8080, our Philadelphia office at 215-982-2381, or schedule a free consultation on our site using this link. We look forward to working with you.

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Does the court block of Biden’s 100-day freeze on deportations affect you?

 

President Joe Biden sits in the oval office signing a stack of executive orders.

 

You may have seen some information on the news about President Biden initiating a ban on deportations for 100 days. We’ve also mentioned it in our previous blog post. This proposal came on January 22nd, and many of our clients and immigrant families across the United States were excited to hear the news.

 

This excitement was short-lived, however, when a Trump-appointed judge in Texas ruled to block Biden’s deportation freeze. This was the first major blow to President Biden’s immigration policy proposals. This challenge to Biden’s immigration related executive order may be the first of many. The new president has many progressive policies on the docket with his immigration plans, and we are sure there are more challenges to come.

Continue reading

An AILA analysis of Biden’s early immigration policies

The logo for the American Immigration Lawyers Association – AILA. The website where the information in this blog post was published.

 

President Biden has had a lot to cover in his short time in office so far. From reversing executive orders set by Donald Trump, to creating his own regulations and policies, the man has been exceptionally busy. In our past blog posts, we have broken down some of the immigration policy changes, both immediate and long-term, that are sweeping through the country. However, there are even more to add to that growing list. Let’s take a look. Continue reading

Embassies and consulates: Appointments, delays, and more

A sign saying, “Expect Delays.” This image demonstrates the delays we are seeing due to Covid-19 and other external factors at embassies and consulates around the world.

 

As many of you have probably realized, it has become nearly impossible to schedule appointment at local embassies and consulates around the US. Some have even outright closed during the pandemic onslaught, making appointment backlogs and service requests entirely unreasonable. Much of this is due to Trump’s stark inability to control the raging pandemic on US soil, and it is now on Biden’s shoulders to find a better way to reopen these institutions, add more staff, and begin allowing appointments for urgent cases once again. Continue reading

Students and OPT: What changes are in sight for foreign youth in the US

A recent graduate sits at a table with others, while wearing a graduation cap and gown. Her cap is decorated with a flowers and reads, “IMMIGRANT.”

 

Well, it’s happened. Trump is old news and Biden has stepped up to bat by signing over a dozen executive orders on his first day as the 46th President of the United States. Many of those orders were direct reversals of his predecessor’s decrees, but some are new. The ones we are most excited to see come to fruition are the immigration policies. Specifically, those relating to the demolition of non-Covid related travel bans, the destruction of the border wall between the United States and Mexico, and a new and bright path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Continue reading

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