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Glitches in USCIS System

December 4, 2014

Glitches in USCIS System

Author: New York Immigration Lawyer

USCIS stands for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and is a government body that accepts and processes all petitions and applications related to any and all immigration benefits.

The process of communication with USCIS boils down to exchange of papers and on rare occasions, includes phone calls and infopass appointments.

That is why it is very important to submit correctly filled out forms; timely respond  to request of more evidence and organize the papers in the most convenient way for the adjudicator.

In cases that do not require an interview, the petitioner or applicant will never meet the person who makes a decision on his/her case. However, often, an applicant or an attorney would receive correspondence from the adjudicator: request for more evidence; notice of intend to deny, etc. Often such notices are mere duplicates of the instructions for the form submitted; sometimes a person gets a notice twice; or receives something that does not make a sense at all.

Recently, USCIS revealed that some of such notices are sent automatically due to the “glitches” in their system.  For the past year, the glitches are to blame for RFEs for I 864 affidavit of support form; double notices for fingerprint appointments and receipts of filing with the RFE in it (this one is a hybrid, a new “monster”  created by glitches).

The unfortunate thing is that an attorney or petitioner/applicant still has to address these babies of the glitches even if they do not make any sense, because, if for example, an attorney fails to respond to an RFE, the case almost surely will be denied on the basis of failure to response to an RFE, even if the RFE itself did not make any sense.

Glitches or not, submission to the USCIS is a serious matter, and should not be taken lightly as any mishap will result in frustration, loss of money and time!




Obama’s Immigration Reform Plan Revealed

November 21, 2014

Obama’s Immigration Reform

From New York Immigration Lawyer

President Obama today announced his plan for the reform of the broken Immigration system in the US.  While the details of the action will be revealed in the months to come, the President stated that he would start a new Deferred Action Plan, now for parents of the US citizens and permanent residents regardless of age.  The plan should,  undoubtedly, affect many, but it should not be the only President’s action.

If implemented like DACA, the plan should allow undocumented parents of the US citizens and permanent residents to receive protection  from  removal, work authorization and ability to travel internationally.

Answering President’s rhetorical question,  we can say that “We are the nation who finds a way to welcome hardworking and striving individuals, and we are the nation of immigrants.”

It remains everybody’s hope that the President’s plan will become ACTION in the nearest future, and maybe, will be even  broader than the initial announcement.


November 14, 2014


Author: New York Immigration Attorney Alena Shautsova

Good news can be shares with all immigrant visas applicants: the NVC will no longer require submission of the original documents in support of the immigrant visas.  Usually,  when  a person applies for an immigrant visa (a spousal visa; visa for an immediate relative; work related visa; etc) as a part of the visa process, the applicant must submit certain documents not to the consulate directly, but to the National Visa Center first.

NVC often required that original of certain documents be submitted to it, such as original of birth and/or marriage certificates. This requirement would significantly delay the process as in some countries it is simply illegal to mail original of the birth or marriage certificates (Russia, for example). As such, the applicant would have a really hard time trying to follow  NVC instructions and stay on track with the timing of the application.

However, NVC stated that as of November 12, 2014,  it will change its instructions.  The only document that will still have to be in the original would be an affidavit of support form.

Only after the appointment is scheduled, NVC will tell the applicant to bring the originals to the consulate.


DMV Denial of License

October 21, 2014

DMV Denial of License

New York Immigration lawyer Alena Shautsova

Have you recently moved from another state and had difficulties getting NY driver’s license? Were you totally confused? Were you blamed you are not a US citizen?

It happened to my client: a born US citizen who has spent several years in a different state, and when she came back to NY and decided to apply for NY driver’s license and report a change of her address, a lady at the DMV Manhattan office told her that …. she needs to present “more proof” that she in fact was a US citizen… hmm

My client actually presented a social security card; different state ID card; a US birth certificate; bank statements from different banks and utility bills. According to the DMV point system table she had enough points to get her NYS driver’s license.  Nevertheless, the clerk told her to apply for a US passport and come back…

The question was: did the DMV clerks look at their own point table? Or is it just anther document issued to confuse everybody and make people’s life more difficult?

This client is a US citizen, and eventually, after visiting a different DMV  location, she was able to get her license.

Many non-citizens, however, experience the same issue. The government passed the Real ID act which requires the DMV offices to check for the lawful immigrant status before issuing an ID to the applicant. However, DMV clerks are not attorneys and often they lack training to ascertain if a person is in fact in lawful immigration status or status that allows a person to receive a state ID or driver’s license.  For example, another client of mine, an applicant for asylum was denied Chicago State ID because the clerk there decided that his documents showing pending case with the Immigration Court were not sufficient to prove authorized stay in the US…

At the same time, there are people without lawful immigration status who were able successfully to extend their 8 years DMV licenses even after the Real ID act…

Recently, New York City voted to issue Id-s to everybody, regardless of their immigration status.

Maybe, it is time to change the rules?

What Happens if I 751 Petition Filed Late?

October 14, 2014

What Happens if I 751 Petition Filed Late ?

Author: New York Immigration lawyer Alena Shautsova

I-751 petition is an Immigration form that is sued to remove the condition from permanent residency for those non-citizens whose marriage with a USC was younger than 2 years old at the time adjudication of adjustment of status application or issuance of an immigrant visa.

I-751 must be filed within 90 days prior to the second anniversary of the conditional residency.  Sometimes, the petition is submitted late. A jointly filed I-751 petition filed after the second anniversary of the CPR’s admission or adjustment may be considered only if the CPR is able to demonstrate good cause and extenuating circumstances for the failure to timely file. The instructions to the Form I-751 clearly state that a CPR may file a petition untimely only if he or she includes a written explanation for his or her failure to timely file and a request that USCIS excuse the late filing. The law provides for broad discretion as to what constitutes good cause and extenuating circumstances. Some examples of what constitutes good cause and extenuating circumstances may include but are not limited to: hospitalization, long term illness, death of a family member, the recent birth of a child (particularly if there were complications), and a family member on active duty with the U.S. military.

Please note that there is no limit as to how many I 751 petitions can be filed.

Those filers who request  a waiver from joint filing, also can file multiple petitions. If an immigration officer encounters a waiver request petition subsequent to the denial of a previous waiver request petition based on the same ground (termination of a marriage entered in good faith, extreme hardship, or battery or extreme cruelty), the he/she  will review the new petition to determine if the applicant has presented additional evidence different from the first petition. If a waiver request I-751 petition filed subsequently to a previously denied waiver request petition is based on a different ground than the previous petition, the immigration officer will evaluate the new petition separately from the previous denial.

If the petition is denied, then the USCIS has to issue a Notice to Appear, because person’s conditional resident status gets terminated.

Also, sometimes it is apparent the couple will separate or will file for divorce.  Nevertheless, the non-citizen still has to file I 751 petition, sometimes prior to the divorce proceedings being finalized. If a CPR files a waiver petition based on termination of marriage, but the CPR is legally separated or in pending divorce or annulment proceedings, USCIS shall issue an RFE requesting documents
terminating the marriage. If the CPR provides within the allotted 87 days responsive information, the service center shall adjudicate the petition on the merits. Otherwise, the I-751 will be denied.

It is always a good idea to consult with an attorney prior to filing of I 751, or if after a joint filing, the couple separated.  Denial of the I 751 petition leads to the removal proceedings and can be avoided if mistakes are corrected early.




Solutions For Unaccompanied Minors

October 9, 2014

Asylum For Unaccompanied Minors

Author: New York Immigration attorney Alena Shautsova

Recent influx of children from South America posted serious questions in  front of the US government.  While the Obama administration promised an Immigration reform, it also decided to handle the cases of these children rather harshly: new immigration detention facility in Texas and surge dockets in Immigration courts do not look like measures that should address this crisis in a humane way.

Nevertheless, most of the children are eligible for some sort of relief. For example: asylum, Special immigrant juvenile status, U or T visa, and sometimes VAWA derivative status.

Most of the asylum claims of  unaccompanied children involve allegations of family or domestic violence or gang violence.

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status can be granted to those children who have a guardian or custodian in the US pursuant to a State judge’s court order. The child can submit application for SIJ as long as he/she is under 21 years old.

In New York, any person can serve as  a guardian, as long as he/she does not have disqualifying criminal convictions, and can demonstrate that he/she will be a suitable and reliable adult.

The fact that a child has one parent present in the US does not disqualify the child from the SIJ status.

Sometimes, the DHS issues an expedited order of removal against the child (for example, when the child is 18 years old, he/she can still qualify for SIJ status, but the Immigration treats him/her as an adult). Such an order will not be a bar to SIJ status. If, however, the child is placed in regular Immigration proceedings, and now is applying for SIJ, it is likely that the judge will not terminate the case until I 360 is approved.

Recently, the DHS has harshened its policies and practices of dealing with immigrant children: the DHS keeps these kids in detention, would refuse or set a very high bond; would issue  expedited orders of removal against those kids who turned 18…  However, it does not mean that there are no solutions for children and, if possible, a child or his/her family members should consult with an attorney to explore defenses to the removal.







Travel to Belarus for Children with Dual Citizenship

September 26, 2014

Travel to Belarus for Children with Dual Citizenship

Author: Immigration attorney Alena Shautsova

The laws of the Belarus allow children under 16 years old to have a dual citizenship. When a child of a Belarusian citizen is born abroad, he or she automatically becomes a Belarusian citizen as well.

When traveling to Belarus the first time after the child’s birth, parents should know certain requirements and particularities that would help to avoid issues at the Belarusian/Russian border.

To wit, a Belarusian citizen child may return to Belarus using a document called “Permission to Return to the Motherland.” The permission gives the child a right to come to Belarus ONCE. The child will not be able to exit the country using the same document or his/her foreign passport, if that passport did not contain a Belarusian visa.

The only possible way the child will be able to exist Belarus if the child will hold  a Belarusian passport. It means that while planning a trip to Belarus, the parents must also take with them child’s birth certificate with apostile.   The apostile is a necessary attachment to the birth certificate, with it the Belarusian authorities will not consider the certificate.  Further, upon arrival, the birth certificate and apostile must be translated and notarized.

The procedure of applying for the child’s Belarusian passport in Belarus starts with the child’s registration at  the place of residence in Belarus; further an application form with passport photos must be submitted. If the parents would like to speed up the process of passport issuance, they will need to pay a small fee, otherwise, children receive passports in Belarus free of charge.

When the child reaches 16 years old, he/she will need to choose the citizen of which country he/she would like to remain.

Another important fact is that if the child travels to Belarus with one parent, the Belarusian authorities will need to see a notarized permission from the other parent allowing the child to be crossing the Belarusian border while leaving the country. Such a permission may be obtained in the Belarusian consulate abroad.






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.