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Stamford immigration lawyer

The U.S. State Department will now require applicants to provide additional information when filling out their visa application forms. This additional vetting is a part of a more significant effort by the State Department to both increase national security and provide greater clarity to the visa application process. As of June 2019, when visa applicants fill out their visa application form, they will be asked to provide all the social media profiles, email accounts, and phone numbers they have used in the last five years. In addition, applicants must submit information regarding previous international travel, any deportation statuses, and whether any family member has been involved in terrorist activity.

The Background of the Decision

In previous years, visa applicants were not asked this additional information unless it was believed that extra scrutiny was required, such as when applicants originated from regions where terrorist groups were known to be active. However, with the flood of immigrants into Europe and other areas around the world from these areas, there has been a growing fear that members of terrorist cells will seek to use what have traditionally been secure immigration and travel routes to enter the United States.

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Posted on in Immigration

Stamford immigration lawyer

In the United States and across the entire world, immigration and immigration laws have become a heated and widely discussed topic. In the past few weeks, the White House has proposed a bill that would change the United States immigration system into a merit-based one. But what does this mean, and how will it affect individuals and families who are seeking to enter the United States through family-based immigration? If you or someone you know is looking to migrate to the United States, you should speak to a knowledgeable immigration lawyer to find out how these changes will impact you.

A Merit- and Point-Based System

The proper way to look at these proposed changes to immigration is that it is not about reducing immigration, but rebalancing it. As the American immigration system stands now, a wide variety of people across a substantial social and economic spectrum can gain admittance to the United States. Under the new proposed changes, individuals who are young, healthy, well educated, and speak English will be given priority. Whether a potential immigrant meets such criteria will be determined using a point system. Such individuals will be required to do a more intensive citizen test before being given admittance to the United States.

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Am I Eligible to Remain in the U.S. Under Temporary Protected Status?Millions of people lawfully enter the U.S. each year to stay for a limited time on a student, work, or visitor visa. When it is time to return home, most go willingly so as not to overstay their visa and risk being denied an immigration visa in the future. But what if their home country has changed dramatically for the worse in their absence? Armed conflict, a natural disaster such as a hurricane, or some other type of danger such as an Ebola outbreak could make it unsafe for a person to return. If this happens to you, you may be eligible for Temporary Protected Status.

Who Qualifies for Temporary Protected Status?

You can apply for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) if your home country has been designated “unsafe for return” by the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security. As of April 2019, the following countries are on the list:

  • El Salvador - due to a series of earthquakes beginning March 2001.
  • Haiti - due to a 7.0-magnitude earthquake in January 2010.
  • Honduras - due to Hurricane Mitch since January 1999.
  • Nepal - due to a devastating magnitude 7.8 earthquake in April 2015.
  • Nicaragua - due to Hurricane Mitch since January 1999.
  • Somalia - due to extreme violence since September 2012.
  • Sudan - due to ongoing armed conflict and extraordinary conditions since November 1997.
  • South Sudan - due to political instability and armed conflict which began when the country gained independence from Sudan in 2011 and which continues to cause severe food shortages.
  • Syria - due to armed conflict since August 2016.
  • Yemen - due to armed conflict and food shortages since March 2017.

To be eligible for TPS, you must have entered the U.S. prior to the TPS start date for your country and maintained a continuous residence in the U.S. since the most recent TPS designation date. 

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Avoid Deportation by Immigration and Customs EnforcementA foreign citizen whose presence in the U.S. depends on a visa or green card must avoid actions that could attract the attention of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and result in deportation from the U.S. Being convicted of a crime, such as driving under the influence (DUI), can result in your being arrested by ICE officers. 

What Are the Responsibilities of ICE?

ICE responsibilities include:

  • Preventing terrorism;
  • Combating international crimes such as drug and weapons trafficking;
  • Identifying and removing aliens who have committed crimes and therefore present a risk to public safety; and
  • Arresting aliens who have entered the U.S. illegally or have committed some type of immigration fraud.

What Kinds of Crimes Can Lead to ICE Arrest and Deportation?

A summary of recent ICE arrests provides a good overview of the types of activities that lawful permanent residents (LPRs) and temporary visa holders should avoid:

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New Federal Guidelines Proposed for Public Charge InadmissibilityOne of the biggest concerns for people seeking to immigrate to the U.S. is the chance that they will be ruled inadmissible for one reason or another. U.S. authorities might reject your application for an immigration visa because of your criminal history, medical issues, or the risk that you will be unable to financially support yourself and wind up living on government assistance, which would make you a “public charge.”

Definition of Public Charge Inadmissibility

In simple language, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) defines a public charge as a person who is primarily dependent on the government for food, shelter, and similar basic needs. A person deemed likely to become a public charge will not be admitted to the U.S. nor will an adjustment of status be granted to them.

However, current immigration law is vaguer on defining whether an immigrant may become a public charge. The Immigration and Naturalization Act is the governing federal law. Section 212(a)(4) states that “Any alien who, in the opinion of [U.S. immigration authorities] is likely at any time to become a public charge is inadmissible.” The law further states that the following factors should be used to determine whether a person applying for admission to the U.S. or adjustment of status is likely to be financially self-sufficient: age, health, family status, assets, education, and work skills.  

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Immigration Sponsorship: Financial Obligations and MoreMany immigrants to the U.S. are dependent on a parent, spouse or sibling to sponsor them for a family-based visa. Sponsorship is a bigger responsibility than many people realize. The sponsor must file an affidavit of support for the immigrant, which is a legally enforceable contract that commits the sponsor to financially support the immigrant until they have either become a U.S. citizen or have been credited by the Social Security Administration with 40 quarters of paid work (10 years). 

If an immigrant you sponsored accepts means-tested public aid, you can be sued and ordered to repay the cost of those benefits. Means-tested public aid programs include:

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which provides financial assistance to help pay for food, shelter, and utilities for families with dependent children; 
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps; and 
  • Medicaid, which provides health care coverage to low-income people.

What Happens If A Sponsor Dies Before the Immigrant Gets Their Green Card?

If you are immigrating to the U.S. on a family-based visa, and your sponsor dies before you receive your green card, there is still a chance that your application for immigration can be approved. 

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What If I Get Divorced Before I Get My 10-Year Green Card?If you married a U.S. citizen and currently hold a conditional two-year green card, you and your spouse must file a joint petition for removal of conditions during the 90 days before your current status expires. If your petition is approved, you will be granted a 10-year green card. But what happens if you get divorced before the conditions are removed? You may still be able to get an unconditional 10-year green card if you meet certain qualifications.

Who Gets a Conditional Two-Year Green Card?

The main paths that lead to a two-year green card include:

  • You marry a U.S. citizen abroad and, while still living abroad, apply for an IR-1 immediate relative/spouse immigration. If your marriage is less than two years old when your visa is granted, you will receive a CR-1 conditional two-year visa. If your two-year wedding anniversary has passed by the time your visa is granted, you will receive an IR-1 visa good for 10 years;
  • You come to the U.S. on a K-1 fiancé visa, get married within the required 90-day period, and apply for adjustment of status to obtain a green card. If your green card is granted before your second wedding anniversary, it will be a conditional two-year green card; or
  • You come to the U.S. on an F-1 student visa or other temporary visa and get married while in the U.S. While still in the U.S., you apply for an adjustment of status to obtain a green card. If your green card is granted before your second wedding anniversary, it will be a conditional two-year green card. 

U.S. immigration authorities established the two-year conditional period to deter marriage-fraud schemes wherein people pay a U.S. citizen to marry them in order to immigrate to the U.S. 

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How Does a Visitor Visa Overstay Affect Future Immigration?Most U.S. immigrants have family members who come to the U.S. on temporary visas for vacation or to attend school. However, if those family members overstay their required departure date, they could find themselves in trouble with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Some visa overstays can render a person legally inadmissible to the U.S. for several years and unable to qualify for an immigration visa, although a waiver of inadmissibility may be possible in some cases. 

How Do I Know If I Overstayed a Visitor or Student Visa?

If you arrive in the U.S. by airplane or ship, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official will stamp your passport with your admission date and required departure date, shown as the “admitted until” date. If you arrive by land, Customs will issue you a paper Form I-94/Arrival/Departure Record showing your required departure date. You can also look up your arrival/departure information online by your passport number, name, and birthdate.

Students with F1 visas will see “D/S” — duration of status — on their passport or I-94 form instead of a date. This means you can stay in the U.S. as long as you remain enrolled as a full-time student in an approved school that has submitted the required documents to Customs. When you graduate or otherwise complete your program of study, you must depart the U.S. within 60 days.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Voluntary-Departure-Deportation.jpgIf you have received a Notice to Appear (NTA) in immigration court, it means that some agency under the Department of Homeland Security has started deportation/removal proceedings against you and that you are at imminent risk of being deported from the U.S. You probably have many questions.

How Do I Find a Lawyer Who Can Help Me in a Particular Immigration Court Location?

The law requires that you receive an NTA at least 10 days before a scheduled hearing, which may not give you a lot of time to get prepared. The NTA will provide the location of the hearing. There are currently 400 immigration judges in 63 immigration courts across the country.

If you have not worked with an immigration attorney before, look for one near where you live and near the court where you have been ordered to appear. For example, if you have been ordered to appear in immigration court in Hartford, Connecticut, and you live in a city in Fairfield County such as Darien or New Canaan, a Stamford attorney will be able to appear with you in court. Other nearby immigration courts are located in New York City and Napanoch, New York. An attorney who serves Westchester County clients can help you there.

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How Can I Sponsor My Niece or Nephew for U.S. Immigration and Permanent Residency?There are several ways that an American citizen can help a niece or nephew immigrate to the U.S. and obtain a green card, also known as lawful permanent resident (LPR) status. Unfortunately, there is no immediate relative or family preference visa category that allows you to directly sponsor their immigration. Rather, you must consider one of these more circuitous routes:

1. Adopt an orphaned niece or nephew under age 16, making them an immediate relative.

The immediate relative (IR) category allows for the quickest path to immigration, as there are no annual limits on the number of IR visas. The IR category is available to the following relatives of a US citizen:

  • Your parent;
  • Your spouse;
  • Your unmarried child under age 21; or
  • An orphan under age 16 whom you have adopted outside the U.S. or will adopt once they reach the U.S.

2. Sponsor the parent of your niece or nephew for a family preference visa.

The family preference visa category allows U.S. citizens age 21 and older to sponsor the immigration of their siblings, subject to an annual quota of 65,000. The sibling petition can include the sibling’s spouse and minor children under age 21. 

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New Canaan asylum application lawyerYou may be granted asylum in the United States if you have suffered persecution in your home country due to your race, nationality, religion, political opinions, or membership in a certain social group, or if you have a “credible fear” of such persecution if you return to your home country.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) makes a distinction between the terms asylee and refugee. If you are applying for asylum from within the U.S. or at a port of entry, USCIS considers you an asylee or asylum seeker. If you apply from a location abroad, you are considered a refugee applying for admission. This article will only address the issues of asylum seekers.

How a Person in the U.S. Can Apply for Asylum 

If you have already entered the United States, you may be allowed to remain if you meet the criteria for asylum and are deemed admissible to the U.S. You must file Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, within one year after entering the U.S. The assistance of an experienced immigration attorney is recommended, because even a minor error in your application can result in processing delays or outright denial of your request for asylum.

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New Canaan deportation defense lawyer cancellation of removalNavigating the U.S. immigration system can be difficult and expensive at the best of times. However, if you entered the United States illegally or overstayed a visa, you are now in a particularly tough situation. Even if you have lived in the U.S. for years, got married, worked, and had children here, you could be caught by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at any time and find yourself facing a deportation order. If you find yourself in this type of situation, you must seek help from an experienced and trustworthy immigration attorney. 

In recent months, there have been many news reports of undocumented residents who have been deported and of others who have successfully fought their deportation. What makes for a successful deportation defense?

One option is called Cancellation of Removal

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Darien family immigration lawyer immediate relative visaCaring for one’s parents is a commitment from the heart for many people, and a moral duty for others. In any case, most people want to have their parents close to them throughout their lives. If you have chosen to make the United States your permanent home, you may wish to sponsor your parents for immigration through an immediate relative visa.

One of the stated goals of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is “to secure America’s promise as a nation of immigrants by uniting families.” USCIS makes it relatively easy for you to bring your spouse and children to join you in the U.S., and bringing parents over is also fairly easy.

Who Can Sponsor Parents for an Immediate Relative Visa (IR-5)?

If you are a U.S. citizen currently living in the United States, and you are at least 21 years of age, you can sponsor your mother and father for immigration using the IR-5 visa category. You will need to demonstrate that you have enough income and/or assets to support the immigrant(s) you are sponsoring. You will be required to accept legal responsibility for their financial support by signing an Affidavit of Support. You will also need your birth certificate proving your parent-child relationship.

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Darien CT immigration citizenship attorneyU.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has been dealing with a record number of applications for U.S. citizenship by naturalization during the past few years. As a result, it is taking much longer for naturalization applications to be processed.

Growing Demand for U.S. Naturalization

The annual number of applications for naturalization received by USCIS rose from 783,000 in fiscal year 2015 to nearly one million in FY 2017, a 25 percent increase. Final figures are not yet available for FY 2018 (the 12 months ending on October 8, 2018). The first week of October marks the end of each USCIS fiscal year.

As a result of this increased demand for naturalization, it took an average of 10.2 months for an application for naturalization to be processed in FY 2018. This is nearly double the average processing time of 5.2 months reported in FY 2014.

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Darien immigration deportation attorneyIn 2017 and 2018, the U.S. news media focused a lot of attention on the deportation efforts of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). But do the statistics actually support the idea that the average documented immigrant awaiting permanent resident or citizenship status should be seriously concerned about the possibility of being deported?

ICE Administrative Arrest Statistics for 2018

In fiscal year 2018 (the 12 months ending on October 8, 2018), ICE made 158,581 administrative arrests, meaning that the arrested individual had committed a civil violation of U.S. immigration laws. However, most of these individuals were not merely in violation of immigration laws; they were also guilty of criminal violations. 66% were convicted criminals, 21% had pending criminal charges, and 3% had previously issued final orders for deportation. Only 10% of these arrests involved people who had committed only a civil violation of immigration laws, such as overstaying a visa or entering the country illegally.

The total number of administrative arrests increased from 110,104 in 2016 to 158,581 in 2018, an increase of 44 percent over two years. The increase in arrests was heavily skewed toward the category of people who had pending criminal charges, indicating that ICE has stepped up enforcement against individuals who have been charged with a crime but not yet convicted. However, many of these people had prior criminal convictions. Among the most common crimes committed by arrestees were driving under the influence, drug possession, and assault. 

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New Canaan immigration green card lawyerIf you are considering marriage as a way to obtain permanent resident status in the U.S., also known as getting a green card, you must be very careful to avoid being accused of fraud. Applications for marriage-based visas, which permit the immigration of fiancés and spouses of U.S. citizens, are closely examined by U.S. immigration officials because of the relatively high incidence of fraud. You would be wise to consult an experienced immigration attorney to ensure that you do not make any mistakes in the application process.

Avoiding Marriage Fraud

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has been involved in the investigation and prosecution of numerous marriage fraud schemes in the past few years. It is instructional to review a few of these cases to understand what was done wrong:

In 2017, eleven people were found guilty of immigration-related marriage fraud in two separate but related schemes in Texas. They had been paying U.S. citizens to enter into fraudulent marriages with Nigerians who had entered the United States on tourist visas and then preparing fraudulent applications for the Nigerians to obtain permanent resident status. One of the ringleaders, an American citizen, was sentenced to two years in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised parole. Other defendants were sentenced to 12 to 18 months in prison or a term of probation. Several of the defendants are not U.S. citizens and will face deportation proceedings upon their release from custody.

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Westchester County immigration interview lawyerFrom the moment you decide you would like to immigrate to the U.S. until the moment you become a United States citizen, you will go through at least two in-person interviews with U.S. immigration officials. 

When Interviews Are Required During the Immigration Process

Many people first come to the U.S. on non-immigrant visas, such as F1 visas for college students or H1-B visas for skilled workers. In order to get those visas, the applicant must appear at a U.S. consulate in their home country for an in-person interview. When such individuals decide they would like to convert their temporary status to lawful permanent resident (green card) status, they often find an employer willing to sponsor them for an employment-based immigration visa, most commonly an EB-2 or EB-3 visa. An in-person interview is again required prior to issuance of an EB visa. 

Other people are able to become lawful permanent residents via a family-based immigration visa, often sponsored by a family member (parent, spouse, child, or sibling) who is already a lawful permanent resident or citizen of the United States. An in-person interview is required prior to the issuance of immediate relative (IR), family preference (F), and fiancé (K) visas.

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Stamford citizenship naturalization attorneyIf you have recently become a naturalized U.S. citizen, there are several steps you should take within a month or two of receiving your Certificate of Naturalization. 

Update Social Security With Your Citizenship Status

You should already have a Social Security number and card, because these are required to work in the U.S. When a lawful permanent resident (LPR) becomes a naturalized citizen, you must inform the Social Security Administration (SSA) of this change in status. To do this, take your Certificate of Naturalization to the nearest SSA office. It is recommended that you wait about two weeks after naturalization to do this.

There are several reasons why it is important to update your Social Security record. First, if you changed your name at your naturalization ceremony, you must officially inform the SSA of your name change. This is necessary to ensure that all of your employment records under different names remain linked together. 

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Westchester County NY citizenship and naturalization lawyerMost people assume that a naturalized citizen of the United States has the same rights and permanent status as a citizen by birth. In most cases, that is true. However, there are some situations in which a naturalized citizen can be denaturalized and deported from the country. 

Grounds for Revocation of Naturalized Citizenship

According to section 340 of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, there are four situations in which a person’s naturalized citizenship may be revoked: 

1. Person concealed or willfully misrepresented a material fact. 

Put simply, this means that a person deliberately lied or withheld information on their application or in their interview for naturalization, and USCIS found out about it later. The lie must involve a “material fact,” meaning that the information could have influenced the USCIS decision on naturalization.

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New Canaan citizenship attorneyMany immigrants arrive in the U.S. with limited formal education. Other immigrants arrive with multiple degrees but are not fully fluent in speaking, reading, and writing English. Still others are well-educated and fluent in English but are age 50, 60, or older and have not had to memorize information for a test in many years. Any of these situations can leave an immigrant nervous about passing the English and civics tests necessary to qualify for U.S. citizenship by naturalization

If you are at all nervous about these particular requirements, you need not be. The tests are actually quite simple, and study aids are readily available to help you prepare. Some applicants may even be exempt from these requirements.

Exemptions From Test Requirements

You do not need to take the English test, but must take the civics test in the language of your choice if:

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