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August 15, 2014


Ebola Outbreak-related Immigration Relief Measures to Nationals of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone Currently in the United States

Release Date: August 15, 2014 by USCIS

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is closely monitoring the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. USCIS offers relief measures to nationals of those three countries who are currently in the United States.

Immigration relief measures that may be available if requested include:

  • Change or extension of nonimmigrant status for an individual currently in the United States, even if the request is filed after the authorized period of admission has expired;
  • Extension of certain grants of parole made by USCIS;
  • Expedited adjudication and approval, where possible, of requests for off-campus employment authorization for F-1 students experiencing severe economic hardship;
  • Expedited processing of immigrant petitions for immediate relatives (currently in the United States) of U.S. citizens;
  • Expedited adjudication of employment authorization applications, where appropriate; and
  • Consideration for waiver of fees associated with USCIS benefit applications.

To learn more about how USCIS provides assistance to customers affected by unforeseen circumstances in their home country, visit

Do I Need to Renew Green Card Prior to Citizenship Application?

August 9, 2014

Do I Need to Renew Green Card Prior to Citizenship Application?

Author: New York Immigration lawyer Alena Shautsova

Many permanent residents have a question as to what they need to do if they are eligible for naturalization, but their green card or permanent resident card has expired: do they renew it first, or shall they just apply for citizenship?

The Immigration laws require that permanent residents over age 18 be in possession of a permanent resident card. INA § 264.

As such, if an individual applies for naturalization six months or more before the expiration on his/her permanent resident card (Green Card), he/she does not have to apply for a new card. However, he/she may apply for a renewal card by using Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card.
If an individual applied for naturalization less than six months before the expiration date on his/her Permanent Resident Card, or did not apply for naturalization until the card had already expired, then he/she must renew his/her card.

If the card was lost, the card must be renewed/restored before applying for citizenship.

New Fingerprinting Procedure for Immigration Court

August 8, 2014

New Fingerprinting Procedure for Immigration Court

Author: New York Immigration Lawyer

All respondents in Immigration court has to make sure that the results of the   fingerprinting procedure are valid on the date of their Immigration court hearing. Expired results cause delays and adjournments and bring frustration to all participants of the process.

Currently, the Immigration court places the burden of notifying respondents about updating of the results on their attorneys. Up until recently, the procedure required, that respondent submit the Applicant Information Worksheet (AIW)  to ICE OCC-NYC at the 11th floor window at 26 Federal Plaza, New York, NY.  ICE OCC-NYC would then forward the AIWs to USCIS and USCIS would determine if an Applicant’s fingerprint checks were expired and if expired, reschedule the Applicant for an appointment to be physically re-printed.

Effective August 11, 2014, the AIW has to be sent directly to USCIS to

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

Attention: AIW

26 Federal Plaza – Room 3-120

New York, NY 10278.

USCIS requests the following on all AIW submissions:


1 – Respondent/attorney clearly indicate the next court date at the top of the AIW and, if possible, attach a copy of the EOIR notice indicating the next court date.


2 – Submit the AIWs to USCIS at least 60 days but no more than 120 days before the next merits court date.  USCIS will not entertain any AIWs for reprints if the next court date is more than 120 days out.


3 – USCIS will not entertain any AIWs for reprints if, according to their records, the fingerprints will still be valid at the time of the next court date.

How To Bring Family Members to the US

July 29, 2014

How To Bring Family Members to the US

Author: New York Immigration Attorney Alena Shautsova

An ability to sponsor a family member into the US depends on (1) the immigration status of the sponsor and (2) the relationship between the sponsor and the family member who is overseas.

A US permanent resident can “bring” over: a spouse, a child (unmarried under 21 son or daughter); an unmarried son or daughter.  A permanent resident cannot sponsor his or her siblings, grandparents/grandchildren or parents.

A  US citizen may sponsor a spouse, a child (unmarried under 21 son or daughter); unmarried son or daughter; married son or daughter and their children; a sibling. There is no ability to bring over grandparents or uncle and aunts.

For example, an adult US citizen daughter would like to sponsor her mother who lives abroad. Will she be able to sponsor her under-aged siblings with the mother as well? The answer is no. A 21 years old, US citizen daughter can sponsor her parent, but not parent’s children. The law does not allow that. However, the children may be sponsored by the mother herself as soon as she becomes a permanent resident.  The US daughter may file for her siblings of course, but the wait time for siblings is significantly longer than for children of the permanent residents. See Visa Bulletin.

May a child sponsor a step parent? Let’s say mother of the same US citizen daughter re-married.  Yes, but only if the mother married the step dad before the US citizen daughter’s 18th birthday.

For more information on family immigration visit:





Unlawful Presence Bar Can Be Served In the US

July 23, 2014

Unlawful Presence Bar Can Be Served In the US

Author: New York Immigration Lawyer Alena Shautsova

Under the Immigration laws, if a person overstayed his/her visa or period of authorized stay, he or she would be inadmissible into the US for a period of 3 or 10 years depending  on the period of overstay if such a person leaves the US. The bar to entry triggers only when the person leaves the US, however for a long time the question was: does the person have to be outside the US to subsequently receive immigration benefits, or does the bar starts to run when the person leaves the US and continues to run even if the person somehow re-enters the US.

The question was answered in unpublished BIA decision Matter of Cruz, 4/9/14.  The BIA stated that “..if section 212(a)(9)(B) of the Act created inadmissibility for an alien who seeks or has sought admission to the United States (similar to section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) of the Act’s provision for the inadmissibility of an alien who “seeks” or “has sought” to procure admission or another immigration benefit by fraud or willful misrepresentation of a material fact), we might construe the statute as creating permanent rather than temporary inadmissibility. However, the statute simply states that an alien is inadmissible if he “seeks” admission within the pertinent period,  which is ambiguous language.”

It means that the bar of unlawful presence is a temporary bar which triggers when the person leaves the country and continues to run if the person re-enters the US without inspection and/or using misrepresentation.  This is an important decision because it illuminates need for an extreme hardship waiver if the time of the bar has passed.

New York To Issue IDs to Undocumented Immigrants

July 15, 2014

New York To Issue IDs to Undocumented Immigrants

Author:  New York Immigration lawyer Alena Shautsova

The story with identification cards for undocumented began when states started to refuse issuing Id’s to those who could not prove their immigration status  in the US. With time, some states opted out and passed local laws that allowed for different forms of identification for “illegal” immigrants: Illinois, Utah, Washington, Washington DC, Connecticut, New Mexico, and Maryland allow those who cannot show a visa to get state “ID-s”.

Surprisingly, New York, a pioneer in many innovations where nations and religions are blended like a mix of multicultural cuisines in  Manhattan, has not yet allowed its residents, even illegal ones, to enjoy the privilege of being able to identify themselves using a state plastic card.

New York City, tired of waiting for the State to move on the issue, decided to pass its own legislation that allows undocumented men, women and children to apply for and receive a resident ID. The Bill was in fact passed and signed by Mayor on July 10, 2014.  There is no information if such an ID will be recognized on Federal level, and if it will help to avoid state wide punishments for not possessing valid ID: for example, driving without a driver’s license.

It is however, a first step towards recognition that “illegal” and “undocumented” are not ghosts in our society, they would not just disappear one morning, and they, people who pay taxes and develop our economy deserve a little better than a five year struggle to pass an Immigration reform…

DHS Website for Students

July 9, 2014

DHS New Website For Students

“The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) launched an enhanced Study in the Stateswebsite Monday with four new features. The features enable the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), housed within U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), to convey pertinent information to stakeholders about the international student process in a clear and interactive manner.

The new features include:

  • An interactive glossary
  • An “Ask a Question” section
  • An enhanced School Search page
  • A mobile-ready version of Study in the States

“Being an international student is a complex process that involves several government agencies, and the new Study in the States tools will help students and schools easily find the latest news, information, interactive guides and videos they need,” said SEVP Director Lou Farrell.

The revamped site also features streamlined navigation and a blog geared to international students and school officials. Users can translate the site into multiple languages.

The Study in the States website serves as an information hub for the international student community. It brings together the various federal agencies that play a role in implementing our student visa and exchange visitor programs, including ICE, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Study in the Stateswas launched by former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in 2011, as part of a larger DHS initiative to enhance our nation’s economic, scientific and technological competitiveness by finding new ways to encourage the most talented international students to study and learn about expanded post-graduate opportunities in the United States. This initiative includes a focus on streamlining the student visa process, enhancing coordination among government agencies and keeping international students better informed about student visa rules and regulations.

SEVP monitors approximately one million international students pursuing academic or vocational studies (F and M visa holders) in the United States and their dependents. It also certifies schools and programs that enroll these students. The U.S. Department of State monitors exchange visitors (J visa holders) and their dependents, and oversees exchange visitor programs.

Both use the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) to protect national security by ensuring that students, visitors and schools comply with U.S. laws. SEVP also collects and shares SEVIS information with government partners, including CBP and USCIS, so only legitimate international students and exchange visitors gain entry into the United States.

HSI reviews potential SEVIS records for potential violations and refers cases with potential national security or public safety concerns to its field offices for further investigation. Additionally, SEVP’s Analysis and Operations Center reviews student and school records for administrative compliance with federal regulations related to studying in the United States.”

How to Renew DACA status

July 2, 2014

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)  reminds DACA renewal applicants that individuals requesting deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) must submit two passport-style photographs with their Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. This is required for both initial and renewal DACA requests. The photographs should be in color and taken within 30 days of filing the DACA request. For more information, please review the Form I-765 Instructions on



July 1, 2014

Notice to Appear: What is Next?

Author: New York Immigration Attorney Alena Shautsova

Notice to appear (the “NTA”) is a charging document in Immigration. It outlines the main charges or allegations the government is presenting to deport or remove a person from the United States. Under INA § 239(a)(1) (2012), an NTA should include: the nature of the proceedings, the legal authority under which the proceedings are conducted, the acts or conduct alleged to be in violation of the law, the charges against the noncitizen and the statutory provisions alleged to have been violated. An NTA can be served personally or via regular, first class mail. It does not have to be served via certified mail. It is also may be served on an attorney of record.

A person may be charged with either inadmissibility under INA 212 or deportability under INA 237. A person will be charged with inadmissibility if he or she was not admitted into the US or paroled. A lawful permanent resident with a certain criminal convictions coming back form a trip abroad may also be charged as an arriving alien under inadmissibility ground(s). It is very important to check if the grounds of the removal are stated correctly: it will determine the burden of proof on the alien, and possible defenses.

Another important element of the NTA is time and place of the proceedings. Often, the time and places are outlines as TBD (to be determined); it means that the NTA was just issued and an Immigration Court has not yet docketed the case for its calendar. The government shall provide at least 10 days from the service of the notice and before the start of the removal proceedings so that the person can find an attorney.

NTA basically starts the removal proceedings; after it is filed it is possible to ask the Immigration court to change venue or terminate the proceeding. However, before the NTA is filed, the court lacks jurisdiction to make decisions on any motions.

The charges in NTA have to be examined closely and the charged person should seek representation as soon as he or she was served with the NTA. Sometimes, a person may know that the Notice would be issued. In such a case, he or she shall contact an attorney ASAP to discuss possible defense options and strategy.

A person whose case is filed with the court, will have to appear before an Immigration Judge. Failure to appear will result in a removal order issued against the person and possible 5 year bar to apply for any immigration benefits.  The first hearing in Immigration court is called a Master hearing; it is usually very short and during it  the court and attorneys decide how they will be proceeding with the case: what defenses and application an alien will file; what documents the government would like to see;  what is the time frame of filings, etc.

Contact an Immigration attorney if you have questions regarding Notice to Appear: 917-885-2261.






TPS: Children Have to Qualify Independently From Parents

June 23, 2014

TPS: Children Have to Qualify Independently From Parents

Author: New York Immigration Lawyer Alena Shautsova

TPS or Temporary Protected Status allows its beneficiary to stay and work in the US for the period of time designated by the US government.  Currently, TPS was announced for the following countries: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Syria.

Those who would like to receive TPS have to satisfy certain requirements, including being physically present in the US on a special date, designated by the government.  For each of the countries, the date is designated separately. It does not matter if the potential beneficiary entered the US illegally, all what matters: the person must physically be in the US and must remain in the US for a certain period of time.

The question arose in the Matter of DUARTE-LUNA and LUNA, 26 I&N Dec. 325 (BIA 2014) if parent’s physical presence can be imputed to the unemancipated (dependent on parents) children. The argument was not baseless, because for some time the courts held that in fact, parents’ physical presence in the US may be imputed (or counted in)towards physical presence of children, even if in fact, children were not  in the US. However, this argument was in essence “closed” by the U.S. Supreme Court in Holder v. Martinez Gutierrez , 132 S. Ct. 2011 (2012).

As such, the BIA answered the question in negative, and two daughter of the TPS holder were denied TPS and put in the removal proceedings.

The consequences of this decision cannot be underestimated. Under the TPS regulations, there is no dependent status, meaning that if parents receive TPS, their children cannot do so with them. Now, it also became clear, that children must independently qualify for the TPS, and this, of course, will negatively reflect on family unity.  Please note, that at the same time, children may qualify for SIJS if a Family court issues an order appointing a guardian or custodian who can be even undocumented parent!