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New Bill To Limit Family Based Visa – Immigration Law

Immigration Lawyers in Boston MABill Introduced in the Senate to Lower Family Based Immigration and Terminate the Diversity Visa Lottery

On February 7, 2017, the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act was introduced in the Senate. If this Act passes into law, it would:

• Cancel the visa category that allows United States citizens to file relative petitions for brothers and sisters

• Cancel the visa category that allows United States citizens to file relative petitions for their parents

• Cancel the visa category that allows United States citizens and Legal Permanent Residents (persons with green cards) to file relative petitions for their adult children

• Cancel the Diversity Visa Lottery program altogether

• Limit the ability of refugees in the United States to obtain permanent residence

A similar bill previously introduced to terminate sibling petitions suggested that petitions that had been filed prior to the enactment of the law would be grandfathered and processed normally, but no new petitions would be allowed. The text of this bill has not yet been released and has not yet passed either the Senate or House. There is no way to know whether this bill will pass or, if it does, how quickly.

If you have been considering filing for a brother, sister, or parent and you haven’t yet done so, NOW is the time to begin moving forward.

Call the Immigration Division at Shapiro Law Group, PC at 339.298.2300 to set up a consultation with an Immigration attorney now – before it’s too late.

Donald Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration

On Friday, January 27, 2017, shortly before close of business, an executive order was signed concerning the much discussed temporary ban of refugees and foreign nationals from certain countries. As of this time, the signed copy has NOT been released by the White House. Shapiro Law Group, PC has obtained access to a leaked, unsigned version that purports to be the final version, so all comments below are with reference to that version. If the final version is later released to be substantially different, additional updates will be posted.

A summary of this executive order has been provided below. For clarity’s sake, this VERY lengthy executive order into points for ease of understanding.

1. ALL countries will be required to provide a list of information that would be needed from a citizen of their country to determine that someone applying for any US immigration benefit is not a security threat. This imposes a duty on all countries to report back to the United States on what kinds of information would be needed to “vet” someone of their country. This is potentially a significant and unenforceable burden on each country.

a. Those countries that do not respond within 30 days (or respond with what they feel is not enough information) will be put in a report and notified that they have 60 days to respond.
 b. If the countries in this report do not respond within 60 days after being put in the report, ALL travel from people “from” that country will be blocked. It is yet uncertain whether that includes dual citizens, people born in that country but not a citizen, or just citizens of that country.
c. Even if a country is blocked, case by case exceptions may be made in extreme circumstances.

 a. As of this moment, this “block” DOES appear to include people with visas already granted AND Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs or people with green cards) of the United States, as it does not specifically exclude them. There have already been reports of LPRs being detained at airports upon returning to the United States.

3. The State Department, Homeland Security, National Intelligence office, and the FBI are to develop a method to evaluate who is potentially going to be a danger to the United States prior to granting immigration benefits. In addition, they are to also impose a requirement that the applicant now be a positively contributing member of society, will contribute to the national interest, or will commit crimes after entering the US.

a. In person interviews are likely to increase tremendously to comply with this portion of the order.
b. The second part of the above may create a requirement that people be positively contributing members of society before they are granted a benefit. This could potentially block the immigrant visas of elderly parents, young children, or “unskilled” workers. It is very unclear how far this could go and additional guidance will be necessary to try to determine exactly what this means.

4. ALL new refugees will be banned for the next 120 days (approximately 4 months).

a. After the 120 days have passed, new refugees will only be allowed in the future for countries that comply with #1, above.
b. After the 120 days have passed, priority will be given to people who have experienced         religious based persecution and their religion is the minority in the country.
c. NO Syrian refugees will be allowed entry into the United States, effective immediately.
 i. As of this moment, this “block” DOES appear to include people with visas already granted AND Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs or people with green cards) of the United States, as it does not specifically exclude them.
d. The number of allowed refugees will be reduced to less than half of the previous number for this year. Of note is that more than half of these have already been used.
e. Case by case exceptions may be allowed to bypass this 120-day block in exceptional circumstances, such as if they are already in transit.
 f. As of this moment, it is unclear whether this block or these numbers include people who are entering the United States as relatives of people who were already granted asylum in the United States. It is very unclear how far this could go and additional guidance will be necessary to try to determine exactly what this means.

 5. States will be allowed to determine if refugees can resettle in their state.

6. The Attorney General has been asked to consider removal of all TRIG (terrorist related inadmissibility grounds) exceptions. TRIG exceptions include forgiveness of minor or understandable situations, such as having already paid a ransom to save someone’s life to a terrorist or violent group.

  a. It is currently unclear whether this could include the revocation of grants of asylum or green cards to people already granted this status. It is very unclear how far this could go and additional guidance will be necessary to try to determine exactly what this means.

7. The completion of the entry-exit fingerprinting system should be expedited.

8. The Visa Interview Waiver program, which allows some visas to be renewed without an interview, will be immediately suspended.

a. More consular officers should be hired and the program should be expanded to avoid            making the wait for visa interviews much longer.

9. There is to be published, every six months, the following statistics:

a. The number of non-U.S. citizens charged or convicted with terrorism-related offenses in   the US, or removed for that reason;

b. The number of non-U.S. citizens who have been radicalized since entering the United     States;

c. The number of acts of gender based violence against women by non-U.S. citizens; and

d. Other numbers of interest, such as the number of non-U.S. citizens charged with major offenses.

Until further notice, Shapiro Law Group, PC suggests that citizens, nationals, or dual citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen AVOID ALL TRAVEL OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES. This DOES INCLUDE Legal Permanent Residents (those people with green cards) until further notice or guidance is issued.

Please rest assured that this office is constantly monitoring the status of all executive orders being issued with respect to Immigration law and will continue to provide updates once firm knowledge of actual changes are made.

Changes to Immigration Documentation Laws and Border Security

In the past week, several executive orders have been signed by the new administration with making major changes to Immigration.

The first was focused on internal security in the United States. A new focus has been created on persons in the United States without documentation, whether they entered the country without inspection or overstayed their legal visas. A large majority of this document discussed immediate movement against undocumented persons with criminal records. There is to be an increase of border security, hiring of additional enforcement officers, and harsher measures towards “sanctuary” cities and locations. There will also be a focus on trying to remove criminals whose countries previously refused to take them back. Finally, there is also to be a focus on removing undocumented persons in the United States who have been in the country less than two years.

Changes to Immigration Documentation Laws and Border Security

The second was pertaining to an increase in border security – particularly that along the southern US-Mexico border. This order discussed building the “wall” on the border, some basic discussion of how to fund it, and detention facilities to be created along the border.

The confirmed text of the third executive order, released just a few hours ago, has yet to be released by the White House. News articles do seem to confirm that an executive order was signed this evening concerning the proposed temporary ban of refugees and/or immigrants from certain countries. However, at this time, the final order has not been released on the White House website. At this time, the draft version that was previously leaked does not seem reliable, as it has also been rumored that there were changes made to this draft prior to signing.

Shapiro Law Group, PC will be watching the White House website for the official version of this executive order, even through this weekend. Once official information has been released, another update will be posted.

In the meantime, Immigration attorneys around the country are now recommending that immigrants (especially those who are out of status or have no status) carry with them at all times proof of their legal status or physical documentary proof of continuous physical presence in the U.S. for the prior 2 years as that will help protect them against being subject to Expedited Removal.

Expedited Removal is an immediate order without any further hearing, review, or opportunity to apply to stay in the United States unless the person expresses a fear of persecution, in which case he or she is afforded a “credible fear interview” to determine whether he or she may apply for asylum. Individuals subject to expedited removal generally are not informed of their right to counsel. Likewise, they are not provided a sufficient opportunity to contact counsel to help them challenge the charges against them or present evidence that is not with them at the time of apprehension.

Please rest assured that Shapiro Law Group, PC is constantly monitoring the status of all executive orders being issued with respect to Immigration law and will provide updates once firm knowledge of actual changes are made.

If you feel that you may need assistance with your immigration situation during this changing time, please contact Shapiro Law Group

Immigration Expands Eligibility Effective August 29, 2016!

Immigration Expands Eligibility for its Provisional Waiver Program, Effective August 29, 2016!

 Expansion of the Waiver Program May Allow over 100,000 Eligible Applicants for Permanent Residence to Pursue Permanent Residence While Staying with their Families Longer

Normally, if a U.S. citizen or Legal Permanent Resident (LPR, or “green card” holder) wants to sponsor their family member permanently to the United States, they must file a relative petition for their family member. Generally, once that application is approved, the family member (called a “beneficiary”) must apply for permanent residence themselves so they can obtain their “green cards,” or LPR status.shutterstock_98569004

Unfortunately, the rules surrounding who is able to be granted LPR status while in the United States are very strict. This discussion will be limited to people in the United States, since beneficiaries outside of the United States are not eligible for this program.

As a general rule, if a beneficiary has broken specific immigration laws, that beneficiary will not be granted LPR status at all. However, there are many exceptions to this rule. One very well-known exception is that, if someone had accrued unauthorized presence in the United States (for example, stayed beyond the time authorized by Immigration), or even worked without authorization — but is married to a U.S. citizen — then they would be able to apply for their LPR status in the United States.

However, there are few exceptions for beneficiaries who came into the United States without a visa, typically by crossing the border without going through an authorized checkpoint. In cases such as these, or people who are otherwise inadmissible – such as those with criminal convictions, significant violations of Immigration law, or those who have been ordered removed – their only hope to obtain permanent status in the United States is to ask for a waiver.

A waiver is a request for Immigration to grant an exception to the rule. In essence, beneficiaries must show that “extreme hardship” would be suffered by either the U.S. citizen/LPR relative who filed for them, or some other U.S. citizen/LPR relative. That extreme hardship could be either having to be separated from the beneficiary, or being forced to accompany them to their home country. Trying to prove “extreme hardship” to Immigration is a difficult and complex process, but can be made significantly easier through the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney.

Immigration once required these beneficiaries to leave the United States, apply for LPR status at the Embassy or Consulate, and hope that the office abroad would grant their request for an exception. The wait outside the United States could be longer than a year while they waited for Immigration to make a decision. The strain of separation from their families was extremely difficult to endure.

In 2013, Immigration began the Provisional Waiver Program. With a provisional waiver, beneficiaries could apply for the waiver before leaving the United States, wait for Immigration to approve it, process the LPR paperwork at the Embassy or Consulate from the United States, and only travel abroad once their interview is scheduled. This typically limited the time apart from their families to a few weeks, rather than over a year. However, this exciting new change was exceedingly limited – only spouses, minor children, and parents of U.S. citizens could benefit. That limited group of beneficiaries had to prove “extreme hardship” to a U.S. citizen spouse or parent (not child), and could only apply if their only reason for not applying in the United States was because they were in the United States without authorization.

Effective August 29, 2016, this Provisional Waiver Program is going to be expanded even further.

  • Where before, only spouses, minor children, and parents of U.S. citizens could benefit, under the new rule, any relatives of U.S. citizens and LPRs can apply!
  • Where before, only “extreme hardship” suffered by a U.S. citizen spouse or parent carried any weight with Immigration, under the new rule, “extreme hardship” can be shown to a U.S. citizen or LPR spouse or parent!
  • And under the new rule, people who have been ordered removed by an Immigration Judge may be eligible to apply!

However, Immigration did change some things for all applicants. For example, before, Immigration would perform a thorough search of the beneficiary’s history – if there seemed any risk that the Embassy or Consulate might find a reason to refuse LPR status other than unlawful presence in the United States, they would deny the provisional waiver completely. This would sometimes occur whether or not another reason actually existed.

With the new rule, while Immigration will still perform a thorough background check, it will only consider whether there is actually “extreme hardship” that qualifies the beneficiary for the provisional waiver.

Assistance from an experience immigration attorney is now more important than ever; if a thorough background check and analysis of the beneficiary’s immigration situation is not conducted before they leave the United States, they may find themselves trapped abroad for three years, ten years, or even permanently!

If you feel that you may be eligible for a provisional waiver, please contact the Immigration Division at Shapiro Law Group, PC to schedule a consultation to discuss the possibility further.

Syria Designated for TPS through March 31, 2018 – Renewals AND New Applications Accepted!

Immigration has announced that nationals of Syria will be eligible to renew their Temporary Protected Status starting immediately through September 30, 2016, or apply for the first time through January 30, 2017.

Temporary Protected Status (also known as TPS) is a measure taken by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (Immigration) there is a significant concern for the safety of a country’s citizens and nationals. For example, when a devastating earthquake struck in Haiti in 2010, Immigration quickly recognized that it would be unsafe for Haitians in the United States to return to Haiti; action was quickly taken to create a TPS designation for Haiti, which is still in place today. TPS is a form of immigration status where citizens and nationals of a country can remain in the United States, even obtaining employment authorization (work permits) and social security cards. TPS is typically granted for 12 – 18 months at a time, but applications are typically only accepted for a very short period of time. Once that time period has passed, it becomes incredibly difficult to obtain TPS.Boston Immigration Lawyer Massachusetts

Immigration recently made the decision to extend TPS status to nationals of Syria (or persons without nationality who were regularly living in Syria) based on the ongoing armed conflict in the country. Applicants only have a 180-day period in which to file their applications: from August 1, 2016 through September 30, 2016. At a minimum, you must be a national of Syria (or have no other citizenship and last resided in Syria); you must also have been physically present in the United States since August 1, 2016. Even applicants with some criminal issues in their past may still be eligible for TPS.

Right now, it does NOT matter if you already have TPS – anyone from Syria is eligible! But for people whose TPS is expiring soon, they only have a short period to extend (through September 30, 2016).

If you feel you may be eligible for TPS status from Syria, please contact the Immigration Division of Shapiro Law Group, PC as soon as possible. Don’t miss your chance to obtain temporary status in the United States.

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