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US Asylum Procedure Changes

July 15, 2019

US Asylum Procedure Changes

Author: Asylum USA Lawyer Alena Shautsova

Asylum is the area of Immigration law that is undergoing rapid and vast changes. Just recently the Trump Administration announced that it will tighten the rules of qualifying for asylum again: now, a person who was traveling through other countries on the way to the US will be disqualified from asylum in the US unless narrow exceptions apply.

These are the exceptions:

  1. A person was trafficked into the US
  2. If the country the migrant passed through did not sign one of the major international treaties that govern how refugees are managed: 1951 Convention on Status of Refugees, 1967 Protocol; and CAT convention.
  3. If an asylum-seeker sought protection in a country but was denied.

The new regulations govern those who enter or attempt to enter the US at the “southern border”.

Notably, people who will be barred from requesting asylum due to these new regulations may still apply for withholding of removal or CAT. However, the screening for these applications will use a higher standard of fear than asylum. A negative finding of reasonable fear will be subject to a court’s review.

 

As a result of these new changes, more people, and almost all Central American families will be barred from claiming asylum in the US. They will also be subject to expedited removal proceedings: removal proceedings where one does not see a judge and the removal order is issued at the border by the government agents. An expedited removal order bars one from coming back to the US for 5 years. A person who disobeys such an order and enters the US illegally will be subject to a permanent bar.

No Cancellation if Asylum Filing Was Frivolous Says BIA

May 31, 2019

No Cancellation if Asylum Filing Was Frivolous Says BIA

Author: Deportation Lawyer Alena Shautsova

There exists a wrong practice among Immigration law practitioners (fraudsters) to file an asylum claim on behalf of an individual with the purpose of filing for cancellation of removal later in Immigration court. What happens is that people essentially get “tricked” by these practitioners into believing that they can get away with filing a frivolous asylum case and later, when they transferred to court, they will be able to successfully file for a relief with the judge in a different form. At times, people are not even aware they filed for asylum!

Here is a first point: a person has to file for asylum within a year of his/her entry into the US. If you spent here 10 years and more (one of the qualifications for cancellation of removal), chances are you will NOT qualify for asylum unless certain, very narrow exceptions are met.

Second, an asylum application must have merit: you cannot allege that you are afraid of criminal situation in your country general. This is NOT a basis for asylum. It takes months to prepare an asylum application and thoroughly collect all the evidence; if the evidence is not available you must explain why. 

There is a punishment under the law for those who submit  frivolous or fraudulent asylum applications. 

So, within the past years, there were numerous reports of filing for asylum in order to get a cancellation of removal relief: an application for a green card available to be filed in court only. Now, the BIA held that this practice will be sufficiently abolished: if the Immigration judge determines that the asylum application was filed just so that the person could file for cancellation of removal, the proceedings will be DISMISSED! It means that the person will not have a chance to file for cancellation of removal.  See Matter of ANDRADE JASO and CARBAJAL AYALA, 27 I&N Dec. 557 (BIA 2019). 

If one desires to place himself/herself in removal proceedings, even generally not recommended to do so, he/she should request that the government issue a Notice to Appear rather than submit a frivolous asylum case. This approach might come with less success, but will save time, money, and potentially safeguard from civil and criminal penalties. 

 

FOIA: The Importance of Having Your Full Immigration Record

May 20, 2019

FOIA: The Importance of Having Your Full Immigration Record

Author: New York Immigration Attorney Alena Shautsova

FOIA stands for Freedom Of Information Act and is essential for one’s Immigration case. By filing FOIA request, one may not only receive a copy of his/her Immigration file form an Immigration court, Board of Immigration Appeals or USCIS, but also obtain records of one’s interactions with the CBP at the border; receive notes about one’s testimony during his/her Asylum interview and obtain records from the Stokes interview.

A response to FOIA has to be current: if you received a “CD” (the government usually delivers responses to FOIA requests on CDs) in the past but since then had some immigration history: forms filed, a decision made, etc, you need to obtain a “fresh” FOIA response.

One of the most overlooked and underused FOIA requests is an OBIM FOIA: U.S. Office of Biometrics Identity Management (“OBIM,” formerly US-VISIT). Basically, if you would like to receive your files regarding interactions with the Border Patrol officials, you need to file a request for FOIA with OBIM. OBIM requests may be submitted by letter request; Form G-639 by mail, fax, or email; or electronically through the DHS Online Request Form. They should include an original fingerprint card or A-number.

Another important source of information is CBP. A request for records to the CBP may reveal:

Apprehensions and detentions at the border: • Interactions with CBP at the border or in the interior • Form I-94 records • Voluntary return records • Records of entries and exits xi • Expedited removal orders • Advance parole records obtained through CBP.

Unfortunately, the government does not have to disclose all the information. Often,  important information is being withheld according to the provisions allowing the government not to share information that they use for investigation purposes, for example. If, however, an adverse decision is made in one’s case, he/she is entitled to have an opportunity to review and respond to the adverse information in the file.

Finally, often, as a result of the lawsuits, the government is forced to share previously withheld information. What was not available 8 years ago, now, may be available, in other words. If you are seeking to “fix” an old Immigration problem, a FOIA request is a must. It takes several months before you receive a response, but the wait is worth it. Through FOIA you can also obtain copies of lost documents; information regarding old filings that potentially can qualify you for an Immigration benefit; and, of course, information that was filled in the forms which can be checked for accuracy.

If you need assistance in obtaining your files, please call 917-885- 2261 for an appointment.

Important Changes in Green Card Medical Exam Acceptance Policy

February 21, 2019

Important Changes in Green Card Medical Exam Acceptance Policy

Author: New York Immigration Attorney Alena Shautsova

An application for adjustment of status will not be approved if an applicant does not present a valid I693 form, medical exam. The medical exam itself is a pretty basic examination of one’s health condition, and even if a person has certain health issues, there is a waiver available. But what is hard is to comply correctly with constantly changing requirements for the form submission. 

Starting November 1, 2018, all forms I 693 will be valid only if the doctors signed them within 60 days of the submission of the form to USCIS and USCIS adjudicated the case within 2 years of the signature.

Note: the form I693 does not have to be filed together with the AOS package. It can be brought to the interview or submitted after a request for more evidence. 

If the I 693 form was submitted before November 1, 2018, then the form would be valid if

  • The civil surgeon signs Form I-693 more than 60 days before the applicant files the underlying benefit application with USCIS, but the applicant submits Form I-693 to USCIS no more than one year after the civil surgeon signed Form I-693; and USCIS issues a decision on the underlying benefit application no more than one year after the date the applicant submitted Form I-693 to USCIS.

OR

  • The civil surgeon signs Form I-693 no more than 60 days before the applicant files the underlying benefit application with USCIS; and USCIS issues a decision on the underlying benefit application no more than two years after the date of the civil surgeon’s signature.

OR

  • The civil surgeon signs Form I-693, and the applicant submits Form I-693, after the applicant files the benefit application with USCIS; and USCIS issues a decision on the underlying benefit application no more than two years after the date of the civil surgeon’s signature.

In all cases, a Form I-693 submitted to USCIS more than one year after the date of the civil surgeon’s signature is insufficient for evidentiary purposes as of the time of its submission to USCIS.

The best practice is to obtain the form at the interview: since the notice for the interview comes early (about a month before the interview), it is usually enough time to obtain the form and bring to the interview. 

If you have questions regarding AOS procedures in the US, you can book a consultation here: https://www.shautsova.com/appointments/immigration-lawyer-request.html 

Changes in New York Criminal Law May Serve As a Basis for Immigration MTR

November 28, 2018

Changes in New York Criminal Law May Serve As a Basis for Immigration MTR

Author: New York Immigration Attorney Alena Shautsova

Recently, New York highest Court, the Court of Appeals held that a defendant facing criminal charges with a risk of deportation should be entitled to a jury trial. Under  State Criminal Procedure regulations  340.40, a criminal defendant may be denied a jury trial for certain offenses. As such, such a person will face a bench trial instead: a trial where a judge without a jury will decide his/her faith.  

This regulations and practice have been found violating immigrants’ rights who may face deportation/removal even for otherwise low-level offenses.  The court held:

“It is now beyond cavil that the penalty of deportation is among the most extreme and that it may, in some circumstances, rival incarceration in its loss of liberty,” Stein wrote. “Accordingly, we hold that a noncitizen defendant charged with a deportable crime is entitled to a jury trial under the Sixth Amendment, notwithstanding that the maximum authorized sentence is a term of imprisonment of six months or less.”

It means that in every case, a careful analysis of the consequences of the potential conviction is required. It also means, that those who were convicted of deportable offenses and now are facing deportation, should be able to file corresponding motions to reopen their cases both in criminal and immigration courts. 

If you have Immigration questions related to criminal convictions, please call our office for a consultation at  917 885 2261.

 

 

Legalization of Marijuana and US Admissibility

October 19, 2018

Legalization of Marijuana and US Admissibility

 

Image result for marijuana fields

Author: US Immigration Attorney Alena Shautsova

US Federal laws prohibit use and distribution of marijuana, and even though on a state level in certain jurisdictions, use of marijuana and its possession would not even cause criminal charges any longer, on a Federal level, and particularly for Immigration purposes, affairs related to it may cause serious problems.

Generally speaking, persons who are involved in manufacturing and distributing of marijuana would be inadmissible in the US. Drug-related offenses are the toughest ones for US Immigration purposes: there is no even a waiver for the most of them. 

But recently, countries started to liberalize their policies to toward marijuana. Specifically, Canada legalized it. Now, a person may be involved in acts that are considered to be legal in their country, but illegal in the US. What will happen if the person is seeking to come to the US?

The answer was recently provided by CBP:

 “A Canadian citizen working in or facilitating the proliferation of the legal marijuana industry in Canada, coming to the U.S. for reasons unrelated to the marijuana industry will generally be admissible to the U.S. however, if a traveler is found to be coming to the U.S. for reason related to the marijuana industry, they may be deemed inadmissible.”

It means that just working for the industry will not make on inadmissible, but if the person is coming, let’s say to explore business opportunities related to the same, he/she will not be able to enter the US. 

 

Brooklyn DA to Expunge Small Drug Convictions

September 21, 2018

Brooklyn DA to Expunge Small Drug Convictions

 

Foliage Cannabis Marijuana Lush Plants Nat

Author: New  York Immigration Attorney Alena Shautsova

In the light of the general liberalization of laws related to marijuana, Brooklyn DA announced a new program that would permit those convicted in Kings county to apply for an expungement of convictions related to unlawful possession of marijuana.  It should be noted, that on a Federal level, possession of marijuana is still a crime related to a controlled substance, which, depending on the amount, may make a person inadmissible and/or deportable. 

The program by Brooklyn DA to expunge small drug convictions would allow many to clear their records, and potentially, qualify for Immigration benefits they could not qualify previously. The subjects of the convictions could request the convictions to be dismissed. Moreover, those with outstanding summons warrants will be able to vacate their warrants: an outstanding warrant is a red flag for any immigrant, and must be addressed ASAP. 

You can learn more about Brooklyn DA’s programs here: http://brooklynda.org/begin-again/.

If you have Immigration concerns related to convictions, please book a consultation at http://www.shautsova.com.

O Visa Consultation Letters

September 19, 2018

O Visa Consultation Letters

Author: US Visa Attorney Alena Shautsova

To receive an O visa in the US, a petition by a potential employer has to be approved.   O-1 and O-2 nonimmigrant visas are available to individuals with extraordinary ability in science, education, business, athletics, or the arts, and individuals with extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry, and certain essential support personnel. A consultation letter from a U.S. peer group, labor organization, and/or management organization is generally required for petitions in the O visa classification. As a part of the approval process, the employer has to reach out to the designated union/organization and request an opinion: if this union agrees that the subject of the petition is deserving to work in the US in a particular field. Not all the fields, by the way, have such unions.  For example,   the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), issues consultation letters for artists and groups in which instrumentalists make up least 50% of the personnel. Other unions issue consultation letters for artists such as dancers, actors, stage managers, stage technicians, operatic singers, and writers.

In the past, it was the petitioner’s job to reach out to the union and collect the letter/recommendation which could have been positive or “no objections” or negative. 

Recently, due to the fraud concerns, USCIS determined that negative consultation opinions must be sent by the unions to USCIS directly. It is an important change in the process of obtaining an O visa.  This new procedure affects only negative letters, not the positive consultations. 

 

What is Happening with DACA?

August 23, 2018

What is Happening with DACA?

Author: New York Immigration Attorney Alena Shautsova

DACA was restored….not so fast. On August 17, 2018 the same court that previously ordered to restore the program fully, including the part of it that used to provide advance parole was again stayed by the same court. NAACP v. Trump, 8/17/18.

What happened was that the government decided to appeal Court’s August 3rd order regarding the full restoration of the program, and filed a motion to clarify the order and motion to stay. The Plaintiffs in the case agreed that the stay will be appropriate with regard to the new applications, hence the stay was granted. 

It means that those who hold DACA cards that are expiring will be able to file the renewal applications, but no new applications and no applications for advance parole will be accepted. 

 

 

New Policy Regarding Unlawful Presence for F, M and J Visa Holders

August 13, 2018

New Policy Regarding Unlawful Presence for F, M and J Visa Holders

Author: US Visa Attorney Alena Shautsova

Recently, Trump administration started implementing new Immigration policies which construe Immigration laws stricter and with greater negative consequences for the non-residents. For example, several months ago, USCIS announced that the D/S (duration of status) exception of unlawful presence for M, F and J students will be abolished. Meaning, that these visa holders will start accumulating unlawful presence as soon as their program/status expires, and not only when a judge or USCIS determined that their status was “stopped.”  This new policy announcement was in conflict with the existing law allowing F and M  students to apply for reinstatement of status within 5 months of loss of such status, which would negate any determination of “unlawful presence.”

As a result, USCIS eventually changed its policy and the final version of it states that no unlawful presence will be accumulated if the person in F or M status filed a subsequently approved application for reinstatement of status. The new policy is as such:

F, J, or M nonimmigrants who failed to maintain their nonimmigrant status7 before August 9, 2018 start accruing unlawful presence based on that failure on August 9, 2018,8 unless the alien had already started accruing unlawful presence on the earliest of the following:

  • The day after DHS denied the request for an immigration benefit, if DHS made a formal finding that the alien violated his or her nonimmigrant status while adjudicating a request for another immigration benefit;
  • The day after the Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, expired, if the F, J, or M nonimmigrant was admitted for a date certain; or
  • The day after an immigration judge ordered the alien excluded, deported or removed (whether or not the decision is appealed).

 

F, J, or M nonimmigrants who failed to maintain nonimmigrant status on or after August 9, 2018 An F, J, or M nonimmigrant begin accruing unlawful presence, due to a failure to maintain his or her status on or after August 9, 2018, on the earliest of any of the following:

  • The day after the F, J, or M nonimmigrant no longer pursues the course of study or the authorized activity or the day after he or she engages in an unauthorized activity;
  • The day after completing the course of study or program (including any authorized practical training plus any authorized grace period, as outlined in 8 CFR 214.2);
  • The day after the Form I-94 expires, if the F, J, or M nonimmigrant was admitted for a date certain; or
  • The day after an immigration judge orders the alien excluded, deported, or removed (whether or not the decision is appealed).

Significantly, nonimmigrants who are not issued a Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, are treated as nonimmigrants admitted for D/S (as addressed in Chapter 40.9.2(b)(1)(E)(ii)) for purposes of determining unlawful presence.