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  • Green card holder? 5 Reasons Why You Should Naturalize

    On January 14th 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in Mellouli v. Holder, a case challenging the deportation of green card holder, Moones Mellouli from Tunisia, based on a Kansas misdemeanor drug paraphernalia conviction.

    Mellouli came to the U.S. on a student visa from Tunisia in 2004. After graduating with honors, he went on to earn two master’s degrees – in applied mathematics and economics. He became a lawful permanent resident, worked as an actuary and taught mathematics at the University of Missouri-Columbia. In 2010, he was arrested for driving under the influence and having four Adderall pills in his sock. Adderall is prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) but is widely used in universities to study and stay awake. Mellouli pleaded guilty to misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia (i.e. the sock that contained the four Adderall pills). He received a suspended sentence, a year’s probation and was subsequently deported, despite the fact that his record of conviction did not specify the controlled substance connected to the so-called “drug paraphernalia.”

    Although the verdict is still out and the Supreme Court decision will likely focus on the meaning of the statutory language in their decision that will hopefully be out in a few months, we can learn a lot from Mellouli’s case.  One is the benefits of US Citizenship, which is the topic of this blog post.

     

    Adderrall pill photo from Wiki Commons.

    1. PROTECTION FROM DEPORTATION

                Almost any conviction for illegal drugs can result in deportation of a green card holder, as Mellouli’s case illustrates. From our experience, many green card holders do not know that they are not immune from deportation upon a criminal conviction. Although we have successfully represented clients with certain criminal convictions from deportation, we strongly suggest that eligible legal permanent residents become citizens in order to enjoy the benefits of U.S. citizenship. In the event that you have had any contact with law enforcement, no matter how minor, please seek legal counsel before you apply for citizenship.

                Aside from convictions for controlled substances, other deportable convictions include:

    1. Crimes involving moral turpitude: theft, forgery, sex offenses and other crimes where there is intent to defraud/steal or cause bodily harm;
    2. Firearm or destructive device offense;
    3. Crime of domestic violence, crimes against children, stalking or violating a civil or criminal order of protection;
    4. Aggravated felony: murder, rape, sexual abuse of a minor, drug trafficking (including sale or intent to sell, possession of flunitrazepam/roofies and multiple possession convictions), firearm trafficking, prostitution business offenses, various federal offenses (money laundering, alien smuggling, etc.), fraud or tax evasion with loss to victims over $10,000 and misdemeanor charges with a sentence of at least a year for crimes of violence, theft or burglary, commercial bribery/counterfeiting/forgery and obstruction of justice or perjury.

    Click here for Immigrant Defense Project’s full immigration checklist.

    Beware that some minor offenses, even with no jail time could make a green card holder deportable.

     

    1. ABILITY TO PETITION FOR FAMILY MEMBERS AND AUTOMATIC CITIZENSHIP FOR YOUR LAWFUL PERMANENT RESIDENT CHILDREN UNDER 18 YEARS OLD

                Adult US citizens can petition for their immediate relatives (spouses, minor children and parents), siblings, married adult sons and daughters. They can also petition for their fiancé(e) residing outside the United States and children of fiancé(e) under 21. On the other hand, green card holders can only file for their spouse and unmarried children with very long waiting lists for certain categories. For example, according to April 2015 visa bulletin, the wait could be as long as more than ten years. Upon naturalization, any legal permanent resident children under 18 automatically become U.S. citizens by operation of law.

                All the members of our staff come from immigrant backgrounds so we work hard to get good outcomes for our clients because we know what they are going through and have stood in their shoes. Over the years, we have successfully assisted clients in their naturalization applications and have helped brought in their family members with a 99% approval rate. So far, all our spousal applications have been approved without any Stokes interview (2nd immigration interview).

     

    1. ELIGIBILITY FOR CERTAIN GOVERNMENT JOBS

                U.S. citizenship is a requirement for most federal jobs. USAJobs.gov is the one-stop site to get information about federal employment. Here, you can find out how federal jobs are filled; learn more about the hiring reform; find tips for your resume, application, and interview; and how to apply for federal jobs. Most federal jobs are listed on USAJOBS; however, some excepted service agencies, such U. S. Department of State for Foreign Service Officers, post jobs independently on their own website or elsewhere. If you’d like to work for a specific agency, do a targeted search of their job sections and employment information pages.

     Photo from Flickr labeled for reuse.

    1. RETENTION OF RETIREMENT INCOME AND ABILITY TO TRAVEL TO THE U.S.

                Some folks plan to retire in their home country and don’t feel it necessary to become a U.S. citizen. Depending on the country, green card holders who live abroad may not be able to collect their Social Security retirement payments they already earned by paying into the system.

                Additionally, green card holders who:

    1. Actually reside outside the U.S.;
    2. Remain outside the country for extended periods of time (unless intended as a temporary absence);
    3. Fail to file income tax returns while living outside of the United States for any period; or
    4. Declare “nonimmigrant” on U.S. tax returns,

                may be considered to have “abandoned” their resident status and end up losing their status. Thus, if you want to retire abroad and retain your retirement income, it is a good idea to become a citizen.

     

    1. ACCESS TO PUBLIC BENEFITS

                Naturalized citizens and U.S.-born children in non-citizen families are citizens. They are fully eligible for public benefits like Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), SNAP, cash assistance, and SSI, if they meet other program eligibility criteria. Refugees and asylees are also generally eligible for public benefits. Eligibility depends on numerous factors and is determined using gross and net income, size of the family, and any crisis situation such as medical emergencies, pregnancy, homelessness or unemployment. Each applicant is assigned a case worker who will gather all the necessary information to determine the amount and type of benefits that an individual is eligible for. Please note that these types of assistance are typically short-term in duration.

                Greencard holders generally must wait at least 5 years before they can be eligible, however some states have the option or providing them earlier. Temporary immigrants (e.g., work or student visa holders) are generally ineligible for public benefits, including the youth who are categorized as “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, (DACA)” as well as undocumented immigrants. However, these restrictions do not apply to certain programs, such as the National School Lunch Program, the Women, Infants and Children Nutrition Program (WIC), and Head Start.

                The concrete benefit of citizenship comes in when one gets older. Medicare is a social insurance plan administered by the US Government, guaranteeing access to quality health care for eligible U.S. citizens aged 65 years or above. U.S. citizens who have worked in the U.S. for 40 quarters or more have the option of free Medical insurance, in the form of Medicare, while recent immigrants to the United States and are 65 years or older will have to pay premiums in order to get Medicare.

    For other benefits not mentioned here, click here for New America Media’s article about Benefits of US Citizenship. 

     

    We strongly advise that you seek the advice of a licensed attorney in good standing to assist you in your immigration applications, such as naturalization. It is sad to see that there are unscrupulous individuals that prey on new immigrants, including notarios and fake attorneys, who take people’s money and often make costly mistakes, to the detriment of the immigrant applicant.  To see if your attorney is legitimate and is in good standing, go to the Attorney Search page of the NYS Unified Court System if you’re in New York State or see the equivalent directory in your state of residence.

     

    This website contains general information about legal matters.  The information is not advice, and should not be treated as such. You must not rely on the information on this website as an alternative to legal advice from your attorney or other professional legal services provider. If you have any specific questions about any legal matter you should consult your attorney or other professional legal services provider. You should never delay seeking legal advice, disregard legal advice, or commence or discontinue any legal action because of information on this website.

     

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  • What is happening with extended DACA and DAPA? Things you can do now.

    On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced the extended DACA (deferred action for childhood arrivals) to include Dreamers older than 30 years old and a new deferred action for parents of US citizens and permanent residents, also known as DAPA. These are some of the efforts that the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Executive Branch have made in order to prioritize their resources and focus on deporting individuals with a criminal record and posing a threat to public safety.  

     

    However, anti-immigrant sentiments led 26 states to file a lawsuit against the executive actions claiming that the President and the Department of Homeland Security had no constitutional right to create them and that these actions will bring financial burdens to the States. On March 9, Judge Hanen of Texas issued an order that temporarily stopped the implementation of the Executive Actions (expanded DACA and new DAPA).  This temporary halt is based only on the fact that the President and the Department of Homeland Security failed to follow a procedure for public comment. Judge Hanen did not find any violations to the constitution. On April 17, 2015, the Court of Appeals in New Orleans, will hear from the Department of Justice and the opposing states, and will decide whether or not to allow Immigration to move forward with the executive actions. 

     

    People eligible for the original DACA (younger than 31 years old) can still apply for a working permit and protection from deportation. Additionally, spouses of permanent residents and U.S. citizens can apply for a 601-A waiver if they entered to the U.S. illegally and are seeking a green card.  

     

    If you are eligible for the expanded DACA or new DAPA, be attentive to the news in April and prepare your documents in any case that the actions come into effect in June.  

     

    Share your story or the story of your loved ones with your representatives and participate in making these actions a reality. If you live in any of the states opposing the actions (listed below), call your representatives. If you live outside of these states, we also urge you to share your story. You may change the name in your story to avoid being identified. You can find their information in this directory 

     

    As always, please be careful of notarios or anyone that makes you false promises. 

    Opposing Executive Actions 

    • Alabama 
    • Arizona 
    • Arkansas 
    • Florida 
    • Georgia 
    • Idaho 
    • Indiana 
    • Kansas 
    • Louisiana 
    • Maine  
    • Michigan 
    • Mississippi 
    • Montana 
    • Nebraska 
    • Nevada 
    • North Carolina 
    • North Dakota 
    • Ohio 
    • Oklahoma 
    • South Carolina 
    • South Dakota 
    • Tennessee 
    • Texas 
    • Utah 
    • West Virginia 
    • Wisconsin 

    Undecided 

    • Alaska  
    • Colorado  
    • Kentucky  
    • Minnesota  
    • Missouri 
    • New Hampshire  
    • New Jersey  
    • Pennsylvania  
    • Virginia  
    • Wyoming    

    Supporting Executive Actions 

    • California 
    • Connecticut 
    • Delaware 
    • District of Columbia 
    • Hawai’i 
    • Illinois 
    • Iowa 
    • Maryland 
    • Massachusetts 
    • New Mexico 
    • New York 
    • Oregon 
    • Rhode Island 
    • Vermont 
    • Washington 

     

     

  • 5 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE 2014 DACA EXPANSION

    We participated in the DACA Expansion listening session and here are a few things we would like to share with you:

     

    1. UPPER AGE LIMIT REMOVED

    The new DACA program will now allow individuals born prior to June 15, 1981, to apply for DACA (removing the upper age restriction) provided they meet all other guidelines.

    As a reminder, here are the other guidelines:

    • Came to the United States before reaching your 16th birthday;
    • Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making your request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS;
    • Had no lawful status on June 15, 2012;
    • Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
    • Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

     

    1. CONTINUOUS RESIDENCY SINCE JANUARY 1ST 2010

    The new program now requires that the applicant has lived in the United States continuously since at least January 1, 2010, rather than the prior requirement of June 15, 2007.

     

    1. LONGER DEFERRED ACTION TIME-FRAME

    The new program now extends the deferred action period and employment authorization to three years from two years.

     

    1. WHAT HAS NOT CHANGED?
    • Age of arrival into the United States
    • Physical presence and no lawful status on June 15, 2012
    • Education and/or military requirements
    • Criminal background criteria

     

    1. TRAVELING WHILE UNDER DEFERRED ACTION
    • DACA-approved individuals may travel outside of the United States through Advance Parole.
    • CAUTION:

    o   Advanced Parole does not entitle you to be paroled in/admitted back into the United States after travel outside the country.  A separate discretionary determination will be made by the immigration officer at the port-of-entry.

    o   Certain travel outside the United States may affect the continuous residence guideline, particularly those before your DACA approval.

    o   You should be aware that if you have been ordered deported or removed, and you then leave the United States, your departure will likely result in your being considered deported or removed, with potentially serious future immigration consequences.  If you have a previous order of deportation or are under deportation proceedings, you must ask immigration to terminate your proceedings before you travel outside of the country.

    • Generally, USCIS will only grant advance parole if your travel abroad will be in furtherance of:

    o   Humanitarian purposes, including travel to obtain medical treatment, attending funeral services for a family member, or visiting an ailing relative;

    o   Educational purposes, such as semester-abroad programs and academic research, or;

    o   Employment purposes such as overseas assignments, interviews, conferences or, training, or meetings with clients overseas.

    • Travel for vacation is not a valid basis for advance parole.
    • You may not apply for advance parole unless and until USCIS defers action in your case under the consideration of DACA. You cannot apply for advance parole at the same time as you submit your request for consideration of DACA.

     

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  • 5 THINGS TO EXPECT THIS NEW YEAR

    Greetings!  Below is a list of things to watch out for in the immigration front this coming year.

    1. DACA EXPANSION

    As a result of President Obama’s Executive Actions announcement on November 20, 2014, USCIS will expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to include young people who came to this country before turning 16 years old and have been present since January 1, 2010, and extending the period of DACA and work authorization from two years to three years.

    • Allows individuals born prior to June 15, 1981, to apply for DACA (removing the upper age restriction) provided they meet all other guidelines.
    • Requires continuous residence in the United States since January 1, 2010, rather than the prior requirement of June 15, 2007.
    • Extends the deferred action period and employment authorization to three years from the current two years.

     

    1. DAPA REGULATIONS

    Obama’s Executive Actions will also allow parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who have been present in the country since January 1, 2010, to request deferred action and employment authorization for three years, in a new Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program, provided they pass required background checks.

    Allows parents to request deferred action and employment authorization if they:

    • Have continuous residence in the United States since January 1, 2010;
    • Are the parents of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident born on or before November 20, 2014; and
    • Are not an enforcement priority for removal from the United States, pursuant to the November 20, 2014, Policies for the Apprehension, Detention and Removal of Undocumented Immigrants Memorandum.

     

    1. 601A WAIVER EXPANSION

    The use of provisional waivers of unlawful presence will also be expanded to include the spouses and sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents and the sons and daughters of U.S. citizens.

    • Expands the provisional waiver program announced in 2013 by allowing the spouses, sons or daughters of lawful permanent residents and sons and daughters of U.S. citizens to get a waiver if a visa is available. There may be instances when the qualifying relative is not the petitioner. Currently, only spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens are allowed to apply to obtain a provisional waiver if a visa is available.
    • Clarifies the meaning of the “extreme hardship” standard that must be met to obtain a waiver.

     

    1. PAROLE IN PLACE FOR INVESTORS

    With the aim of modernizing, improving and clarifying immigrant and nonimmigrant programs to grow our economy and create jobs, Obama’s Executive Actions will authorize parole, on a case-by-case basis, to eligible inventors, researchers and founders of start-up enterprises who may not yet qualify for a national interest waiver, but who:

    • Have been awarded substantial U.S. investor financing; or
    • Otherwise hold the promise of innovation and job creation through the development of new technologies or the pursuit of cutting-edge research.

     

    1. H1-B PORTABILITY AND EMPLOYMENT AUTHORIZATION FOR SPOUSES
    • The Executive Actions will also bring about the issuance of a policy memorandum that provides additional agency guidance, bringing needed clarity to employees and their employers with respect to the types of job changes that constitute a "same or similar" job under current law. This guidance should make clear that a worker can, for example, accept a promotion to a supervisory position or otherwise transition to related jobs within his or her field of endeavor. By removing unnecessary restrictions to natural career progression, workers will have increased flexibility and stability, which would also ensure a more level playing field for U.S. workers.
    • Obama’s announcement will also help families of H1-B holders by finalizing a rule to provide work authorization to the spouses of certain H-1B visa holders who are on the path to lawful permanent resident status.

     

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  • Executive Actions by President Obama, November 20th 2014

    On November 20, 2014 President Obama passed an executive action which will allow for immigrants to get a temporary legal status. The Executive Action of President Obama called Deferred Action for Parental Accountability will grant employment authorization and protect from deportation to parents who are out of status and eligible.

    Refer to our easy-to-use checklist to determine elligibility and help you organize your documents in preparation for your application. You can always contact us at 718-505-8506 or via e-mail at msclawoffice@gmail.com. Visit our website www.mercedescano.com, for up-to-date legal news. 

    EXECUTIVE ACTION FOR PARENTS CHECKLIST_ENGLISH.pdf

  • June 5th, 2014: a national meeting with USCIS re: Renewal of DACA cases and new applications.

    Immigration is fully committed to get this program renewed and going. With this program, the government hopes that these young men realize their highest aspirations.

    • Applicants with approved DACAS must request renewals 120 days before expiration of their status
    • There should be no departures unless they were done with advance parole
    • Advance paroles should be apply for after the DACA was approved.
    • They need you to have physical presence from August 2012
    • Arrests: no felonies, no serious misdemeanors. And if any arrest for non-serious ones & more than 3, you need to submit proof of them.
    • No proof of employment needed.