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POSTING DATE: November 25, 2019
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Question: Hi, I got married to my husband who is a citizen in feb of this year. The thing is that I have a job in Jamaica and I need to finish staying here for another year so I can get my pension. I come back and forth and he comes to visit me as well. We are interested in starting the process to apply for my residence so I can begin getting ready to move there. We have been on the internet reading about marriage visa applications and it’s a bit confusing. It seems like I have to live in the U.S. to apply for the green card, but can I apply for it while I am here in Jamaica? We always read your articles so please help us understand what we need to do. Much appreciated.
Immigration How To:
How Do I Replace A Lost I-94 Card?
An I-94 is a small slip of paper which was, until recently issued to all international visitors and visa holders entering the U.S.. Officially called the Arrival/Departure card, the I-94 contained the date of entry into the U.S. as well as the date by which the individual must depart from the U.S.. Often, individuals do not understand how important this little card is until it is too late. In order to change immigration status inside the U.S. to any other immigrant or non-immigrant visa status, immigration regulations require that a copy of the I-94 be included with the application to establish eligibility. Foreign nationals must prove that they entered the U.S. legally and were inspected by an immigration officer in order to qualify to file for immigration status in the U.S.. Those who did not enter the U.S. legally are generally not entitled to obtain any new immigration status in the U.S., even when married to a U.S. citizen unless a Waiver is obtained.
Government Will Soon Review Five Years Of Social Media
For Residency & Naturalization Applicants
The Department of Homeland Security recently published rules which allow it to review five years of online social media for immigrants seeking residency, citizenship, asylum and other benefits. Immigration forms will soon require login id information for social media sites including: Ask.fm, Douban, Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, LinkedIn, MySpace, Pinterest, QZone (QQ), Reddit, Sina Weibo, Tencent Weibo, Tumblr, Twitter, Twoo, Vine, VKontakte, Youke, and YouTube. New USCIS forms which will require social media information include: Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status for those applying for a green card through USCIS, Form I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions on Permanent Residence for certain marriage-based green card beneficiaries;Form I-829, Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status for EB-5 green card beneficiaries; and Form N-400 naturalization applications.
Tips For Conditional Residents On Successfully
Obtaining A Permanent Green Card
As most are aware, the foreign spouse of a U.S. Citizen or Resident, who has been married for less than two years at the time of obtaining residency, only receives a two-year Conditional Resident status. Unlike regular U.S. Residents who obtain a ten year Green Card through family members, employment or other means, many husbands and wives of U.S. Citizens only receive an initial two-year Green Card.
In order to obtain permanent residency, the married couple must file a request for removal of the conditional status (Form I-751) within the 90 day period prior to the conditional Green Card expiration. Failure to file or filing late without an explanation can result in the foreign spouse being referred for removal proceedings (deportation).
Court Finds ICE Searches of Digital Technology Unconstitutional
Answer: Great question. Since your husband is a U.S. Citizen, and you have your U.S. tourist visa, there are two options:
1) Adjustment of Status INSIDE the USA: If you came for a visit on your U.S. Tourist visa and you decided to stay in the U.S., you could adjust status inside the U.S. and wait here to receive your Green Card. It takes about 6 months to receive your Work Permit and another few months for your marriage interview and green Card.
2) Consular Processing OUTSIDE the USA: If you want to wait outside the U.S. to finish up your career and qualify for your pension, we would do something called Consular Processing. This allows you to process for your Green Card while you are in Jamaica. The process takes about 12+ months. Your immigrant visa interview will be in Kingston, Jamaica instead of the U.S.. Also, of course you would not receive a work permit, since you would not be applying in the U.S.. Once you receive your Immigrant visa approval and enter the U.S., you will receive your actual Green Card within about 30-60 days. Let me know when you are ready to get started and I will email you a Questionnaire and list of all the documents you will need.
A federal court in Massachusetts recently issued a ruling that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) policies permitting widespread searches of travelers’ electronics equipment, including cell phones, laptops, and other electronic devices at ports of entry, are unconstitutional, unless reasonable suspicion exists of potential illegal activity.
The decision is limited to a certain jurisdictional area and not effective nationwide, however it may reflect a growing trend to restrict widespread, arbitrary searches of digital technology.
Generally, in order to qualify for removal of the conditional status, a couple must continue to live together as a husband and wife. One of the biggest misconceptions that conditional residents have is the belief that as long as they remain “married” to the U.S. Citizen spouse, but not actually living together, they will still qualify. This can result in tragic consequences including loss of Residency and in some instances, deportation. Conditional Residents whose marriage has broken down can still file a removal request without the U.S. Citizen spouse, in cases where the couple has divorced, where there is documented domestic violence or when a spouse is widowed. However, the burden of proof is on the resident spouse to provide the USCIS with convincing evidence that prior to the divorce, domestic violence or death of the U.S. Citizen, the couple were living together in a real marriage. In such cases, it’s always best to consult with a qualified immigration attorney before filing such a case.
To increase the likelihood of approval, removal of condition requests should be submitted with lots of supporting documents to show that the couple has and continues to live together in a real marriage or if divorced, that the couple lived together in a real marriage before divorcing. As with most other cases, the requirements to prove eligibility have become more stringent over the years, now requiring an extensive amount of marital documents in order to qualify. To meet requirements, evidence should include marital documents from the time the foreign spouse obtained the conditional green card until the couple files the request, or until the couple split up. For instance, if the foreign spouse got a green card in January 1, 2018, he or she must file the I-751 within the 90 days prior to the two year anniversary on January 1, 2020, so between October and the end of December 2019. When filing, the request should include many kinds of marital documents from January 1, 2018 until the date of filing. Many couples misunderstand the requirements and only include documents like a copy of the marriage certificate, birth certificate, old wedding photos, none of which is required. Instead, the USCIS officer wants to review marital documents dated from the time the green card was issued until the time the request is filed, not before the foreign spouse obtained the green card. Other common mistakes include only providing a few sample documents, like a few utility bills or bank statements, which is certain to result in a Request For Evidence, delayed case and likely an unpleasant interview at the local USCIS office.
To be successful, couples need to understand that the USCIS has a list of typical marital documents that couples are expected to provide. The more you provide, the more likely the case will be approved at the Service Center. The less you provide, the less likely the case will be approved and more likely, it will instead be forwarded to the local USCIS office for an interview.
To assist the officer in approving the case, documents should be presented in an organized way:
1) Cover letter: Include a cover letter, which clearly lists all the marital documents enclosed, with the dates each type of document covers. For instance, joint Bank Statements from Jan 2018 to Oct 2019.
2) No Plastic Covers: Do not put anything in plastic exhibit covers, since once the case is received, all the documents must be removed from the plastic, do not waste your time or theirs
3) Date Order: Do not just throw together a bunch of documents, make sure that you carefully put them in date order for each month after obtaining a green card. For instance, using the timeline above, joint Bank Statements should include copies of every page of every bank statement for every month from January 2018 through October 2019 (the month when the case is filed).
4) Include Complete Statements: Do not just submit the first page of the statement or bills. For instance with bank accounts, the Officer wants to review all pages of the statement to review account activity to get a clear picture of the marital account. Bank accounts, which only show a small balance and little account movement, usually alert the officer that the couple does not really share their finances and could make the officer believe that the marriage is not really genuine.
5) Relevant Documents Only: Don’t include documents which do not help to prove that you live together. For instance, bills that have a name and no address are not useful. Cards and notes to each other or from other people are not helpful. Don’t go paperless!!! The USCIS only believes something if you have a document with an address on it to prove it. Get the paper bill and you can always pay it online.
6) Photos, Photos, Photos: Photos are also very important to your case. A typical case should include 100 or more photos of you and your spouse together with family and friends in family and holiday situations. Note that pictures which show the same clothing are only counted once, even if you provide 50 from the same event. Selfies are not very useful, but include them if that is all you have.
7) Red Flags: Be aware that lack of certain kinds of documentation (like bank statements which do not show activity) are Red Flags to officers and may indicate to them that a marriage is not real. This includes cases in which a couple does not have a joint lease (or at least one spouse owns the marital residence), lives with relatives, does not have utilities for both spouses going to the same marital address, does not have Driver’s Licenses showing they live at the same address, does not have joint auto insurance and even when a couple files their taxes separately, as single or head of household after the foreign spouse has his or her conditional green card..
A typical qualifying removal of conditions request for permanent residency case can often run between 200 to 500 or more pages. Here is a typical list of documents (in order of importance) which I urge my clients to provide me when I am filing their removal of conditions cases to ensure success. All documents should be for the previous one year and nine months, not before:
-Copy of Green Card (both sides)
-Copy of Driver’s License or State ID for both spouses showing the same marital address.
-Birth Certificate for child(ren) born to the couple together (not children from other relationships);
- IRS Tax Returns and W-2’s or Tax Transcripts & Wage Reports filed since the spouse got his or her green card showing “married filing jointly”;
-Joint Bank accounts statements showing the marital address for Savings, Checking and Investment Accounts
-Joint Lease(s) or if one or both spouses own a home, copy of your Warranty Deed and renter’s or home owner’s Insurance in joint names;
- Auto Insurance in joint names;
-Utilities statements showing joint names with marital address or separate utilities going to the same marital address. For instance electricity bill for wife and internet/cable for husband;
-Credit card statements in joint names with marital address;
-Auto purchase contract/Automobile Registration showing both spouse names
-Travel tickets/itineraries and boarding passes for trips showing both spouse names;
-Receipts for items purchased together, for example, furniture showing both spouse names;
-Gym Memberships showing both spouse names;
-Church & Club Memberships (BJ’s, Costco)showing both spouse names;
-Original Photos of the Couple: Assemble photos using regular copy paper, staple or tape two (2) photos to each page (see diagram). 100 or more if possible:
-Life Insurance Policies in Joint names;
-Medical Insurance in joint names;
Current USCIS processing time is about 8-12 months. After filing the request, Conditional Residents receive a receipt (I-797 Notice of Action) which automatically extends residency for 18 months. This notice can be used to prove residency status, extend a Driver’s License, work and travel.
For background, on January 4, 2018 the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued an update to its border search policies authorizing CBP and ICE officers to randomly search electronic devices of anyone (including U.S. Citizens and Residents) arriving at U.S. borders and airports, without any reasonable suspicion about any illegal activity relating to such devices. This allows officers to take individuals aside, demand passwords, read emails, texts, social media and other communications and ask questions about the contents of those communications to determine a traveler’s intentions and planned activities in the U.S. which might violate Immigration regulations, such as plans to work, live or immigrate.
The 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects individuals against unlawful searches or seizures, requiring authorities to obtain a legal “warrant” prior to such searches, while still providing an exception to the warrant requirement for “routine” searches at a U.S. border. However, under the recent Federal ruling, the court concluded that the search of an individual’s cell phone or laptop is not “routine”, since even a basic search “may reveal a wealth of personal information,” which could even include medical, employment, family and personal contacts. Instead, the decision requires that that CBP and ICE must first have a reasonable suspicion that an electronic device contains illegal material before a search.
The court challenge to the sweeping DHS search policy came from multiple individuals whose electronics devises were searched by officers at ports of entry. According to estimates, the CBP and ICE agents have conducted over 40,000 invasive electronic device searches in 2019 alone, a drastic increase over past years, when for instance on in 2012, records reflect that there were only 5,100 such searches.
As a result of the court order, federal authorities in certain limited areas are no longer allowed to conduct such random searches. Nevertheless, until the restrictions are applied nationwide, the existing expansive search policy still applies to most ports of entry in the U.S., allowing authorities to search your devices for any reason or no reason at all. And while there is no official “profile” which triggers a search, it is common for individuals whose name matches one found in a law enforcement database, or those whose travel documents are found to be defective or responses to questions about intended activities in the U.S. are found to be inconsistent or suspicious or those simply chosen for a random search.
According to the CBP, there are two levels of searches 1) Basic Search: which is a simple inspection of an individual’s data, including looking at apps, photos, chats, and other data files and 2) Advanced Search: which requires agents to have a reasonable suspicion of potential illegal activity, involves using external equipment to access files (including deleted data), copy data, and analyze it. This also allows agents to “detain” electronics devices for a “reasonable period of time” (usually five days, which can be extended in seven day increments) while they extract data, copy it, or attempt to break passwords or encryption.
Essentially, travelers entering the U.S. at ports of entry have no privacy for the most part, although U.S. Citizen and Residents have slightly more options. If agents request that a U.S. Citizen or Resident unlock his or her device or provide a password and they refuse, they cannot be denied entry into the U.S., whereas an international traveler or visa holder can. In both cases, individuals who refuse to unlock devices can be interrogated for hours and have all electronic devices confiscated. In the case of visitors who to cooperate, after a long international flight, hours spent in the airport in custody, he or she will then have to turn around and take another international flight back home.
Ultimately, under current policies, there is no way to avoid a random search or even an advanced search, however there are many things travelers to the U.S. can do to protect sensitive information, including:
Think before you travel, anticipating a scenario in which you are requested by U.S. agents to provide access to your devices. If you decide you would not allow access, either leave the devices at home or don’t take the risk of travelling to the U.S..
Avoid taking your personal phone or computer when travelling to the U.S.. Instead, use only a clean smartphone or laptop computer, which does not contain any sensitive personal data.
Be careful and mature about your social media, remember that nearly everything is public these days. Don’t post pictures or anything else that you would not be proud to present to your family, your boss or authorities in any country, not just U.S. border agents. Parents of teenagers should take possession of their devices and leave them home before travel to the U.S. to avoid any potential problems themselves and their family.
Don’t carry any personal civil documents like birth certificates or resumes in your luggage, since a random search may result in suspicions that you may intend to work or live in the U.S. and this can lead to an advanced search of your devises and entry refusal.
Fully power down all electronic devices prior to passing through customs. Encryption software is most effective when devices are powered down and disable any apps that connect to cloud-based accounts. Never keep a copy of cloud-stored data on your physical equipment.
Finally, if you are unlucky enough to be singled out for further inspection, be courteous and professional and most importantly tell the truth. Lying to federal agents is a crime which can result in serious consequences, much less cancellation of your visa if you are a foreign national.
Trump Administration Says Many Dreamers Are
Criminals, Murderers and Rapists!
On Saturday, November 16th, the Trump Administration issued an incendiary and misleading announcement entitled “USCIS Releases Report on Arrest Histories of Illegal Aliens Who Request DACA” “Offenses include Murder, Rape, Weapon and Assault Charges” for a report about DACA applicants, in an effort to characterize many Dreamers as criminals and rapists.
The actual report referred to, “DACA Requestors with an IDENT Response” is a 2019 update of previous years reports on the arrests and apprehensions of applicants who requested DACA status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals between 2012 and 2018. While the USCIS release does state that the data “may include arrests that did not result in convictions or where the charges were dropped or otherwise dismissed”, in reality, many cases were dismissed and reports are that the majority of arrests were for simply driving without a license and immigration violations.
The report’s release comes just days after the Supreme Court heard oral arguments over the fate of the DACA program and its inflammatory language is identical to that which Trump tweets on a regular basis about Dreamers: “Many of the people in DACA, no longer very young, are far from ‘angels.’ Some are very tough, hardened criminals.” These comments leave a lasting false impression that many Dreamers approved for DACA protections are “hardened criminals”, which could not be further from the truth!
Under DACA policies, Dreamers who have convictions for serious crimes are prohibited from participating in program and must undergo comprehensive background checks every two years in order to reapply for status. In actuality, the USCIS has only had to revoke DACA status due to criminal activity, for less than 0.5% of all applicants.
Question: I am originally from Bahamas and after I got naturalized in 2010, I filed for my younger sister and her family to immigrate here. after the application was approved I got the notice and then letter from a national visa center informing me they are processing the case. But I never got any other notice since then and I am worried maybe something happened with the case. I spoke with a lady there and she said there was no visa right now and my sister has to wait. We are really frustrated and its confusing what we need to do. My niece is 17 and wants to go to college in the U.S. so we don’t know if she can come here next year with a green card or does she have to get a student visa? How much longer does the visa take to be ready? Thank you for your advice.
Answer: That is a great question. I understand your confusion. For background, the waiting line for siblings (the F-4 Immigration category) is about 12+ years. It is confusing because the USCIS first approves the case, then sends it to the National Visa Center (NVC) to hold until a visa becomes available. This is where it gets tricky. There are long waiting lines for most family members to immigrate to the U.S. depending upon their relationship to the U.S. Resident or Citizen sponsor and also depending upon their nationality. The general waiting line for siblings of U.S. Citizens is 12+ years for all countries except China, India, Mexico and the Philippines which are longer. You keep up to date on the monthly visa availability by visiting the Visa Bulletin website. Right now there are immigrant visas available to F4 siblings for cases that were filed in 2007. So since you filed the petition for your sister in 2010, it will take 3+ more years for your family to wait in order to immigrate. Once it gets near that time, the NVC will send you a letter/email notifying you that consular processing is beginning. Nothing happens between now and then. If you move, please update the NVC. Once you receive the letter notifying you that consular processing has begun, we can take the case from there and pay the NVC bills for your sister and family and take care of preparing all the financial affidavits of support and other required documents necessary to finalize the case and get the family through the consular interview process so that they can finally join you here in the U.S.. If your niece wants to study here now, she can apply to colleges and once accepted, apply for an F-1 Student Visa through the U.S. Consulate. Let me know if you have any questions.
Question: I have a question about getting status in America through my daughter. She was born early when I was on vacation there and then we got her U.S. Passport and we returned home where she lives with us in Jamaica. Me and my husband have visitor visas but we are thinking it might be best for her to go to high school there to prepare her better for college and we want to know about immigration details. She is only 15 and cant live by herself in America so will me and my husband be able to live there with her while she goes to school since she is an American citizen? What kind of visa will be get? Can we get our green cards as well? How long will that take? thanks.
Answer: Unfortunately, parents of U.S. Citizen children must wait until the child reaches age 21 to be sponsored by their child for U.S. Residency. You should be able to visit the U.S. using your B1/B2 Tourist visa, but there is not a special exception for parents of U.S. Citizen Children which allows the parents to live in the U.S. while their U.S. children live here and attend school. The law is meant to discourage foreign nationals from coming to the U.S. and having a U.S. born baby just to obtain Immigration status.
Applicants who use social media, yet fail to list the required information on USCIS application forms may delay case processing and even receive application denials.
As a result, immigrants should take care before posting any commentary, information or photos on social media sites, since “Big Brother” is watching…..
If your I-94 card is lost, stolen or seriously damaged, you can apply to replace it by filing Form I-102, Application for Replacement/Initial Arrival-Departure Document. You also may file Form I-102 if you wish to receive a replacement I-94 card with corrected information on it — for example, if the immigration officer spelled your name wrong on the initial I-94 card. The nonrefundable filing fee for Form I-102 is $445. It generally takes about 3-4 months days to receive the I-94 replacement card in the mail.
Under the new electronic I-94 system implemented in 2013, international visitors are no longer issued paper I-94 cards upon entry into the U.S.. Instead, individuals are provided with instructions on accessing their I-94 records online and printing the I-94 card out from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency.