Embassies and consulates: Appointments, delays, and more

Pictured: A sign that says, “Expect Delays.” This image was used to demonstrate 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.

 

The closure or inaccessibility of embassies and consulates have halted many cases that were already in-progress, and have outright disallowed for new cases to have a reasonable processing time. The reopening of these institutions needs to be a priority for this new administration. All Covid safety precautions and regulations applied, of course. Biden, in this case, will need to focus more on adjudication and less on enforcements. Hopefully, as time passes, and Biden’s Covid task force makes headway in curbing the spread of the devastating pandemic rampaging through the States, we will see some progress in the reopening of embassies and consulates across the country.

 

Thank you for taking the time to read our blog. Make sure to stay tuned for updates as our firm will be following the news on when embassies and consulates will begin reopening. If you or a loved one are experiencing difficulties because of embassy or consulate closures, please do not hesitate call 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.

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

Pictured: 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.

 

A large part of moving onward from the wreckage of Trump’s presidency is looking towards our future. The key to this would be to consider who is paving the way for that future: our children.

 

Whether it be international students studying in the the US, F-1 visa holders, or OPT recipients, these young people who are planning on entering, or who have already entered, our workforce are the ones who are going to be influencing the number of opportunities immigrants will have in the United States in the upcoming years. Biden’s administration would be wise to realize the potential these young people hold, by investing in the opportunity while they are dusting off the rest of the White House to get things set up to Joe’s liking. By allowing more students to work after graduation, and finding a better way for students to make the transition from school/university to the workforce more seamless, the 46th President will inherently help to encourage more youth to move to the US for their education. This transition is crutial and has been overlooked time and time again. However, a focus on it could help young people everywhere astronomically by making it easier for them to blend into the American workforce.

 

If you’re a foreign student, undocumented or otherwise, and have questions about your immigration status, what lies ahead for you and your studies or post-grad plans – please do not hesitate to reach out to our firm. We would be glad to assist you and/or your family in the road ahead. If you have any questions or concerns, you are welcome to call 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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Students and OPT: What changes are in sight for foreign youth in the US

H-1B Visas: What’s new? What’s next? Updates for 2021

Pictured: An animated image of a person holding a H-1B visa with the Statue of Liberty in the background

 

A large portion of our clientele rely on our services to aid them with their H-1B visas and applications for permanent residence through employment. You, reader, may in fact be one of them. So what has been happening regarding H-1Bs during Trump’s reign over America, and what differences will we see now that we have a new leader with Joe Biden? All good questions, and we’ll get to them here, in our latest blog on H-1Bs.

 

 As many of you know, the rate of denials and RFEs (Requests for Evidence) has been steadily increasing over the past four years. Not great news. But don’t worry, things are actually looking up. With the changeover to Biden’s administration, the White House staff is determined to work more diligently with US employers and companies in order to restore confidence back into our tattered immigration system. By doing so, we will see a stark decline in the rate of denials (good news for you), and generally more fair immigrations laws and policies when compared to the previous administration. With a streamlined process for H1-Bs, we may even see some of the caps being removed as well, allowing more foreigners to qualify.

 

There have also been huge changes to the lottery system that we’ll outline here. Although these changes were made during Trump’s rule, we highly doubt they will last long with Biden coming into the presidency. We’ll have to stay tuned into the wire for more news, but with Biden’s pro-immigration policies, his commitment to lifting the travel ban on Muslims, and his outline for immigration policy reform, it’s safe to say we are looking at a whole new ballgame for US immigration than what we’ve had in the past.

 

H-1B lottery system changes

H-1B season begins in March of 2021. A new rule was developed for this period, devised by Trump and his staff. It’s called Modification of Registration Requirement for Petitioners Seeking to File H-1B Cap Cases.

 

So what does this new rule do and what does it include? Continue reading

Biden’s shift on immigration: A positive force for the US

Pictured: President-Elect Joe Biden speaks on immigration matters in front of a crowd. He is standing next to a man and putting a hand on his shoulder. The other man is holding an anti-deportation sign that reads, “Not 1 more deportation. Moratorium on deportation on day 1.”

 

Everyone, including us, has been commenting on the fact that immigration will be much easier with the new administration taking over in 2021. You may read about why it might be better to apply for a visa or green card now that Trump is old news and Biden is now in the hot seat – but how are the current policies and laws going to shift exactly? What needs to be done in order for regular people to experience any changes in the US immigration process? Let’s walk through a few things that need to happen in order for us to see a difference between the policies of Trump’s reign, and the immigration regulations of this bright new year.

 

How it was done and how things will go moving forward

Trump used memos, executive orders, and proclamations to institute new regulations pertaining to US immigration. In order to see any type of change in these policies, Biden will need to work with his cabinet to address these policies head on.

 

Many regulations that were set to begin after inauguration day can be sidetracked by Biden in the upcoming weeks and months once he becomes president, giving his administration a 60-day period to decide which regulations should be withdrawn, and which can be reformulated to better fit the new admins policies. Additionally, Trump issued several proclamations in April and June, limiting immigrant visas from specific countries, but also limiting non-immigrant visas based on age of the immigrant, L-1s, etc., unless they meet a certain exception. These proclamations in particular, declared on New Years Eve of 2020, have been extended through March 2021. The good news is Biden won’t have to go through a lengthy process to rescind these proclamations. Instead, he’ll just need to show that the entry of the immigrants does not have a negative impact on the US economy and immigrants hoping to come to the States will be back in business.

 

Many of you are probably wondering what will happen to the Travel Ban (effecting many countries, especially in the Schengen area), as well as the ban against majority-Muslim countries, once Trump is kicked to the curb. Our prediction is that Biden will rescind these policies immediately, unless they are connected to specific COVID-related travel restrictions, and we will see what comes in place of those specific policies.

 

With the highly awaited inauguration already out of the way, there’s much to look forward to with Biden’s new control over immigration in the US. Please let us know if you have any interest in providing topics for us to dive into on our blog, we would love to hear what’s important to you and what questions or concerns you may have. As always, if you would like to get in touch with our offices, please do not hesitate to call 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.

 

What now? A presidential transition

President-Elect Joe Biden smiles at a crowd while onstage in front of a large American flag.

 

With the Trump Administration on its way out of the White House, and the Biden Administration coming into a strained, but hopeful democracy, there’s a lot for us to imagine in terms of immigration in the United States for the coming 2021 year. Along with increased travel, once vaccinations have had a chance to roll through our world’s population, America will soon see a tremendous growth in immigrant numbers. Those seeking to establish roots in the States will have more opportunities to do so, in addition to litigation steadily decreasing as the country moves towards immigration-friendly leadership.

 

What the Biden Administration will need to focus on, amongst other pressing issues, will be encouraging US companies to hire more foreign talent. They can influence this by establishing new policies, changing specific anti-immigration regulations, and adding more confidence into the system itself. Luckily, more foreign families and individuals will be back to trying their luck with US immigration now that Trump is out of power – many of whom held off on beginning the application processes due to his unyielding efforts to keep the number of immigrants to a minimum while in office.

 

Trump will no longer be president, but many of his policies, especially surrounding immigration, will still be in play unless Biden steps up to the plate and makes revoking these policies a priority in his admin from the get-go. It is our hope, and in the best interest of the United States, that Biden’s administration will push America to be pro-immigration and once again welcome foreigners into our country.

 

There’s a lot to look forward to as far as Biden’s immigration policies go. Keep your eyes on our blog for more updates as we learn more about the regulation turnarounds and big changes in immigration law during these first few months with Biden in the oval office. If you have any questions regarding any points from the text above, or if you need to speak with an attorney, please feel free to contact our Pittsburgh office at 412.258.8080, our Philadelphia office at 215-982-2381, or schedule a free consultation with one of our immigration attorneys on our site using this link.

Sessions Ends Administrative Closure at the Expense of Due Process in Immigration Court

Altering decades of practice in immigration court and placing immense pressure on an overburdened immigration court system, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a decision in an immigration case on Thursday declaring immigration judges do not have general authority to administratively close cases. The decision applies nationwide—though we can expect it will be challenged in the federal courts in individual cases.

Administrative closure has long been an uncontroversial management tool used by immigration judges to manage their caseload. It allows a judge to temporarily take a case off the court docket, usually to allow for completion of related proceedings that will impact the outcome of the individual’s removal proceeding. Sessions’ decision largely eliminates this vital tool. Judges now will be forced to keep long-pending cases on their active dockets, contributing to the already massive backlog of immigration cases.

In his lengthy decision, Sessions concluded that judges lack legal authority to grant administrative closure. But he pays short shrift to the legal authority that does not support his view. As amicus (friend of the court) briefs submitted in the case pointed out, the Board of Immigration Appeals repeatedly has declared that administrative closure stems from immigration judges’ inherent authority to conduct proceedings and take actions necessary to decide a case. No federal court has questioned immigration judges’ authority to grant administrative closure.

Not only is Sessions misinterpreting the law, he is creating terrible policy. The National Association of Immigration Judges urged Sessions not to end administrative closure, arguing that its termination could “overwhelm the system” and “waste precious hearing time.” A 2017 report commissioned by the immigration court system concluded morecases should be administratively closed in order to reduce the courts’ backlogs.

Others argue that ending administrative closure will harm vulnerable populations, including children and individuals of limited competency. Many of these individuals need to pause their proceedings to allow other federal and state entities to make determinations that would prevent their deportations.

Furthermore, Sessions’ move to insert himself in this case is particularly alarming given his anti-immigrant bias. As immigrant rights groups explained in the case, Sessions’ long history of anti-immigrant rhetoric prevents him from being an impartial adjudicator. The groups called for his recusal from this decision-making process.

In the decision, Sessions determined that administrative closure “encumbered the fair and efficient administration of immigration cases.” Yet, his decision will result in the very widespread unfairness and inefficiency he claims to oppose, restricting the authority of immigration judges to control their dockets and punishing immigrants who need additional time to obtain the results of other federal and state agency proceedings to qualify for immigration relief. And we should be wary of the ways he downplays the impact of this decision. He notes, for example, that judges who need to extend cases may grant “continuances” instead of administratively closing cases while simultaneously neglecting to mention that he is weighing in on another immigration case that may greatly reduce the availability of continuances.

Though Sessions ended administrative closure for future cases, regulations still permit the practice in a limited number of cases. As for the 350,000 cases currently administratively closed, those cases will gradually make their way back onto court dockets in the coming weeks and months through motions by the government.

The fact remains that this is a devastating decision for those who want to preserve due process in immigration courts. Sessions has not only restricted the authority of immigration judges, but he also has found another way to make immigrants increasingly vulnerable in a system that is already stacked against them.

This article was originally published by the American Immigration Council and written by Aaron Reichlin-Melnick. Click here for the original article.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Sessions Ends Administrative Closure at the Expense of Due Process in Immigration Court

Your Rights Entering the United States of America

Image result for us customs airport

Whether you are at the airport or entering the United States via land or a sea port, you will encounter officers with the Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) and/ or officers with Customs and Border Protection (CBP). We at Goldstein & Associates wish to outline what rights you have when you are traveling into the country.

Please note that you cannot travel out of the country and be let back in without a valid US Passport (for US Citizens), approved travel document (for those applying for an immigrant visa), or valid US Visa.

All information below is summarized from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) series, “Know Your Rights.” The original article can be found at: https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights/what-do-when-encountering-law-enforcement-airports-and-other-ports-entry-us.

TSA and CBP officers have the right to search all people and property when entering the country. Questioning and fingerprinting (for non-US Citizens) is routine, and it is advisable to cooperate with basic inquiries. If you are selected for additional questioning, you have rights. If you are a US Citizen, you have a right to an attorney. If you are a Lawful Permanent Resident or visitor, your rights to an attorney are limited to certain circumstances, and you may be refused legal counsel by the officers. However, if you are under arrest, you always have the right to an attorney, regardless of country of citizenship.

In some cases, TSA or CBP officers may ask you to unlock your personal electronic devices. You are not required to do so. However, failure to cooperate with these requests may cause the officer to deny you entry into the United States. If your electronic devices are confiscated, you should write the name of the officer down, and get a receipt for the item(s) taken.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Your Rights Entering the United States of America

Your Rights if you get Stopped by Law Enforcement Officers

Police car

If you are a recent immigrant, you may be feeling anxious about possible encounters with law enforcement officials or officers with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). We at Goldstein & Associates wish to outline what to do if you are stopped by the police or ICE Agents in your car or on the street, as well as what rights you have.

All information below is summarized from an article from the American Civil Liberties Union. See the original article at: https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights/stops-and-arrests-what-do-when-encountering-law-enforcement?redirect=know-your-rights/when-encountering-law-enforcement-stops-and-arrests.

If an Officer Stops You

If an officer stops you and asks you questions, and you have legal immigration status, then comply with their requests. You are required to carry your immigration documents with you, such as your green card, Employment Authorization Card (EAD), documentation of nonimmigrant status (such as a work or student visa), or border crossing card. Failure to produce these documents can result in your arrest. If you are in the process of procuring one of these documents, but your application is pending with USCIS, then show the officer the receipt notices from your case.

If you do not have legal immigration status, or if your pending application has not been issued receipt notices yet, then ask if you are free to go. If they answer yes, then calmly walk away. Never run. Sometimes, officers may state that you are not under arrest, but you are not free to leave. In this case, you are being detained (but not arrested). They may pat you down and ask for your name. If they ask any further questions, you do not have to answer.

If an Officer Stops you in your Car

Remain calm and pull over immediately, roll down the window and keep your hands visible at all times. You must show your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. You do not have to answer any of the officer’s questions, unless they inquire about your valid immigration status, and you do not have to let the officer search your car. However, if they have a reason to believe that you have committed a crime, they may search your car anyway.

If you are Arrested

You have the right to remain silent. Do not disclose any information other than your name. You have the right to speak with an Attorney. When you make phone calls from prison, officers may listen to calls you make to friends and family, but not to attorneys.

If you are concerned about how this may affect you or your family, or if you have any other immigration needs, feel free to contact us online or call our office at 412-254-8700.

Immigrant Rights and Law Enforcement

ice-agents-make-arrest-Getty

If you are a recent immigrant, you may be feeling anxious about possible encounters with law enforcement officials or agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). We at Goldstein & Associates wish to outline what to do if ICE agents come to your house, as well as what rights you have.

Your Rights if ICE Agents are at Your Door

All information below is a repost of an original article from the American Civil Liberties Union. See the original article at: https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights/what-do-if-immigration-agents-ice-are-your-door.

1. If officers are at your door, keep the door closed and ask if they are Immigration agents, or from ICE. Ask the agents what they are there for. Opening the door does not give the agents permission to come inside, but it is safer to speak to ICE through the door. If the agents don’t speak your language, ask for an interpreter.

2. If the agents want to enter, ask them if they have a warrant signed by a judge. If ICE agents do not have a warrant signed by a Judge, you may refuse to open the door or let them in. An administrative warrant of removal from immigration authorities is not enough. If they say they have a warrant, ask them to slip the warrant under the door. Look at the top and at the signature line to see if it was issued by a court and signed by a judge. Only a court/judge warrant is enough for entry into your premises. One issued by DHS or ICE and signed by a DHS or ICE employee is not.
a. An example of an order by a judge: https://www.aclu.org/files/kyr/kyr_abra-la-puerta.pdf
b. An example of an order by ICE: https://www.aclu.org/files/kyr/kyr_no-abra-la-puerta.pdf

3. Do not open your door unless ICE shows you a judicial search or arrest warrant naming a person in your residence and/or areas to be searched at your address. In all other cases, keep the door closed. State: “I do not consent to your entry.”

4. If agents force their way in anyway, do not attempt to resist. If you wish to exercise your rights, state: “I do not consent to your entry or to your search of these premises. I am exercising my right to remain silent. I wish to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible.” Everyone in the residence may also exercise the right to remain silent.

5. Do not lie or show false documents. Do not sign any papers without speaking to a lawyer.

If you are concerned about how this may affect you or your family, or if you have any other immigration needs, feel free to contact us online or call our office at 412-258-8080.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Immigrant Rights and Law Enforcement

Welcoming Veronica Cruz Salazar, LL.M to our firm!

IMG_9275

Goldstein & Associates is excited to launch our new blog series about the immigration heritage of our staff. We would like to welcome our newest attorney, Veronica Cruz Salazar, to the team.

Veronica is from Venezuela where she pursued studies in tax law from the Universidad Central de Venezuela in Caracas and from Universidad de Salamanca in Spain. Her legal experience includes work for United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Caritas de Venezuela, and later as a senior associate and law department manager for the legal department at Taxand Venezuela in Caracas.

Veronica originally came to the United States to study English but as the conditions in Venezuela got worse, her family agreed that it would be best if she stayed in the U.S. Veronica decided to pursue an LL.M because it would allow for her to find many opportunities in America.
During her studies at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law pursuing her LL.M, Veronica found a job posting for Goldstein & Associates and her experience working with refugees gave her the courage to apply for our immigration practice. After a series of interviews, we found her to be a great fit.

Veronica feels that she has learned a lot from her time thus far at Goldstein & Associates. Each case is different and she is aware of the “human factor” of each individual involved in the case. Veronica knows what it is like to encounter new people and move to a new place, “I was an immigrant; I understand.” She knows how it feels to be full of uncertainty and not sure if you will find the right friends. Veronica attributes much of her success as an immigrant to surrounding herself with the right people who helped her, supported her, and allowed her to find opportunities to succeed.

Veronica feels extremely lucky to have found the right people and agrees that finding the right attorney who provides the same comfort and support is important. If you are interested in speaking with Veronica, do not hesitate to contact us online or call at 412-258-8080

Posted in Family Immigration | Comments Off on Welcoming Veronica Cruz Salazar, LL.M to our firm!