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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.

 

 

USCIS ADOPTS NEW POLICY FOR NTAs

July 6, 2018

USCIS ADOPTS NEW POLICY FOR NTAs

Author: New York Immigration Lawyer Alena Shautsova

USCIS changes policy on how and when it will be referring applicants to court. Now, all persons who applied for Immigration benefits and were denied will be issued Notices to Appear. A Notice to Appear is a charging document that means that the person is going to be placed in removal proceedings in Immigration Court. 

Under the new policy, the following cases will be referred to court: 

  • Cases where fraud or misrepresentation is substantiated, and/or where an applicant abused any program related to the receipt of public benefits. USCIS will issue an NTA even if the case is denied for reasons other than fraud.
  • Criminal cases where an applicant is convicted of or charged with a criminal offense, or has committed acts that are chargeable as a criminal offense, even if the criminal conduct was not the basis for the denial or the ground of removability. USCIS may refer cases involving serious criminal activity to ICE before adjudication of an immigration benefit request pending before USCIS without issuing an NTA.
  • Cases in which USCIS denies a Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, on good moral character grounds because of a criminal offense.
  • Cases in which, upon the denial of an application or petition, an applicant is unlawfully present in the United States.

The revised policy does not change the USCIS policy for issuing an NTA in the following categories:

  • Cases involving national security concerns;
  • Cases where issuing an NTA is required by statute or regulation;
  • Temporary Protected Status (TPS) cases, except where, after applying TPS regulatory provisions, a TPS denial or withdrawal results in an individual having no other lawful immigration status;
  • DACA recipients and requestors when: (1) processing an initial or renewal DACA request or DACA-related benefit request; or (2) processing a DACA recipient for possible termination of DACA.

I 601A Provisional Waiver: Step by Step Guide

March 27, 2018

I 601A Provisional Waiver: Step by Step Guide

Author: Provisional Waiver Attorney Alena Shautsova

A provisional  I 601A waiver waives the unlawful presence bar for those who have certain LPR or USC relatives in the US. An unlawful presence bar applies to all who accumulated unlawful presence in the US, left the US, and now are applying for Immigration benefits from outside the US.  The positive side of this waiver is that  unlike many waivers that can be filed only once the person departed the country, I601A can be filed for while the person is still in the US; and second, recently US relaxed the standard for granting the waiver, and now, the person can win the waiver either by providing that the relative will not be able to move with him/her outside the US (will suffer extreme hardship in case of a move) or that the relative will have extreme hardship in case the immigrant is removed out of the US.

Here are the steps for the waiver:

First Step: An approved Immigrant Petition

A person who is planning on filing for the waiver has to have an approved immigrant petition. It can be I 130, I 140, or even a selection in the DV lottery.

Second Step:

The petition has to the sent for processing to the National Visa Center, and a person has to pay the Immigrant Visa and Affidavit of Support Fees (when necessary)

Third Step:

Submitting I 601A to USCIS with a filing fee and supporting documents. Once the waiver is accepted by USCIS, the clock in the NVC is stopped.

Fourth Step:

Once the waiver is approved, USCIS informs NVC about the approval, the applicant has to submit DS 260 immigrant visa form and supporting documents for the visa. Then he/she has to wait for the visa interview; schedule the medical exam overseas and plan for the departure.

Fifth Step

An applicant will have to travel overseas for their visa interview. A consulate will use an immigrant visa that will be stamped in the passport. Upon arrival to the US, the applicant will have the actual “green card” mailed to the address they left on file with USCIS.

These are the most common steps for those who have never been in court and do not have other inadmissibility issues.

 

EXTENSIONS OF NON-IMMIGRANT PETITIONS WILL BE REVIEWED AS NEW SUBMISSIONS

October 25, 2017

EXTENSIONS OF NON-IMMIGRANT PETITIONS WILL BE REVIEWED AS NEW SUBMISSIONS

Author: Work Visa Immigration Attorney Alena Shautsova

USCIS has recently announced that it will no longer rely on previous approvals when deciding petitions for extensions of certain non-immigrant work visas.

This new policy will affect L1 petitions the most.

The changes

If previously, when the same company would file for an extension of the L1 petition for the same employee, USCIS would generally rely on the first approved petition to determine the validity and sufficiency of the extension request, now, USCIS will consider each request for an extension as a new petition.

Specifically, the new policy states:

“In adjudicating petitions for immigration benefits, including nonimmigrant petition extensions, adjudicators must, in all cases, thoroughly review the petition and supporting evidence to determine eligibility for the benefit sought. The burden of proof in establishing eligibility is, at all times, on the petitioner. The fundamental issue with the April 23, 2004 memorandum is that it appeared to place the burden on USCIS to obtain and review a separate record of proceeding to assess whether the underlying facts in the current proceeding have, in fact, remained the same. Not only did this improperly shift the burden of proof to the agency contrary to INA § 291, but it was also impractical and costly to properly implement, especially when adjudicating premium processing requests.”

It means that a requestor for an extension will have to resubmit all documents that were necessary to qualify the beneficiary initially, plus more documents establishing qualifications for an extension. Such documents may be, but are not limited to: records of payroll, copies of tax returns, bank account statements, contracts, etc. (The large companies have different requirements).

 

VAWA and ILLEGAL ENTRY

October 8, 2017

VAWA and ILLEGAL ENTRY

Author: VAWA Attorney Alena Shautsova

VAWA stands for “Violence Against Women Act” and essentially allows certain non-citizens to obtain a green card by sponsoring themselves if they were in a qualifying relationship with a US citizen or a permanent resident.  So, VAWA provisions may be used not only by married women but by men, children and certain parents.

One of the advantages of VAWA is that not only it allows a person to sponsor her/himself, but it also “erasers” certain grounds of inadmissibilities, and sometimes even works to waive the permanent bar!

For example, a VAWA beneficiary may receive a green card or adjust her status to one of a permanent resident even if she/her entered the US illegally. The VAWA self-petitioner is not required to show a “substantial connection” between the qualifying battery or extreme cruelty and the VAWA self-petitioner’s  unlawful entry. Also, a VAWA beneficiary who spent in the US more than a year illegally and then left the US and returned back illegally may avoid the permanent bar imposed on regular applicants in similar circumstances, if they qualify for a waiver  under INA 212(a)(9)(C)(iii). No waiver is available for non-VAWA petitioners. 

VAWA petition is, however, not helpful for K visa entrants. There is a mistaken approach that if a person entered the US on a K-1 (fiance) visa, he/she will be able to receive a green card if qualifies for I 360. This is not so yet.  I 360 may be granted, and automatically a person will get a deferred action – protection from removal, but not the green card. The adjustment of status for most such persons will be denied.

Now, persons who are abused or battered but do not have the required connection with a US citizen or a permanent resident, cannot benefit from the VAWA laws.  For example, if X had to flee El Salvador due to a violent husband, she will still be required to demonstrate that she has a legal entry or parole into the US before her application for a green card is granted.

 

Interviews for Green Card Process Will be More Frequent

August 29, 2017

Interviews for Green Card Process Will be More Frequent

Author: New York Immigration Attorney Alena Shautsova

Several months after President Trump took office, it can be said that Immigration enforcement is steering in the direction of tightening the rules and enforcement. So far, the regulations and laws have not been changed much, but  was is changing is the way the laws and regulations are administrated.

For example, USCIS has recently announced that it will start calling for interview all employment based green card applicants, as well as derivative asylum applicants ( form I 730). Previously, such applications were decided on paper without meeting of the applicants. Now, an interview will be a must. In addition, USCIS stated that it will also expand the interview for other types of permanent resident applications.

Another change that came is that now, advance parole (form I 131) has to be applied for and received in the United States. If a person leaves the United States prior to receiving the approval, such an application will be considered abandoned.

President Trump administration is also likely to end DACA program. It is unclear how this program will be ended: with or without a grace period, with or without referring all beneficiaries to ICE…

It means, that now then ever, an applicant will have to gt prepared for the interview to make sure that he/she will be able to overcome any and all doubts an officer have and prove his/her eligibility. A preparation for an interview starts with reviewing of the eligibility requirements, documents, and of course, a consultation with an attorney who will try to foresee and prevent likely issues.  It is important to choose an attorney who is familiar with the recent USCIS “trends” and who can advocate for her client zealously.

No More Parole for Children from Central America

August 17, 2017

No More Parole for Children from Central America

Attorney: Immigration Attorney Alena Shautsova

On December 1, 2014, DHS and the U.S. Department of State (DOS) announced that the U.S. Government would allow certain minors in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to be considered for refugee status in the United States.  The program helped children to come to the United States if a qualifying parent was present in the US in a legal status.  At some point the program was expanded and helped to come  (1) The in-country biological parent of a qualifying child who is not legally married to the qualifying parent in the United States may apply, and the unmarried and under 21 years of age children and/or legal spouse of the in-country parent can also be included as derivatives of the in-country parent; (2) the caregiver of a qualifying child who is related to either the qualifying parent in the United States or the qualifying child may apply, and the unmarried and under 21 years of age children and/or legal spouse of the caregiver can also be included as derivatives of the caregiver; (3) the married and/or 21 years of age or older children of the qualifying parent (who is lawfully present in the United States) may apply, and (4) the unmarried and under 21 years of age children and legal spouse of the married and/or 21 years of age or older child can also be included as derivatives.

On August 16, 2017, the new administration cancelled the program. All those who were pre-qualified while in their country of origin will be notified that their registration would be terminated. This decision affects those who have not yet traveled to the United States. Those who were already paroled into the US, may remain here, their parole would not be terminated, and they will be allowed to submit form I 131 to be re -paroled while in the United States.

For those who got left behind overseas: they still may try regular Humanitarian parole route. More information on humanitarian parole may be found here:  http://www.russianspeakinglawyerny.com/humanitarian-parole/.

 

If you have questions regarding parole procedure and qualifications, call our office 917-885-2261.

 

FALSE CLAIM TO US CITIZENSHIP CAN BE EXCUSED

June 20, 2017

FALSE CLAIM TO US CITIZENSHIP CAN BE EXCUSED

Author: US Citizenship attorney Alena Shautsova

Many are already aware that false claim to US citizenship disqualifies them from any and all Immigration benefits in the United States, forever.  Such claims usually appear when one is trying to use a false US citizen passport to enter the United States, claims that he/she is a US citizen on I-9 employment eligibility verification form or fills out a form to obtain a US citizen passport (let’s say, in a postal service)…

However, some claims of US citizenship can be excused and will not be on one’s way to a green card. These are very rare occasions, and they have to fall squarely into an exception.

Specifically, a disqualifying claim to United States citizenship occurred when  (1) when there is direct or circumstantial evidence that a claim was made with subjective intent to obtain a purpose or benefit under the Act or under Federal or State law and(2) the claim actually affects or matters to the purpose or benefit sought. See Matter of Richmond, 26 I&N Dec. 779, 786-787 (BIA 2016). In the past the following “claims” to the US citizenship were recognized as the ones not obstructing a person’s ability to receive a green card: a claim to a US citizenship on an application for a small business loan (Hassan v. Holder, 604 F.3d 915, 928-29 (6th Cir. 2010)). In a 2016 case coming from the Board of Immigration Appeals, it was also recognized that a US citizenship claim during the application for a driver’s license is not the one to prevent one from obtaining a green card. Rodolfo Melendez Manriquez, A089 599 983 (BIA Nov. 25, 2016).

It means that if a person claimed to be a US citizen to “enhance” his /her chances to receive a benefit, but it was not necessary for a person to be an actual citizen to receive such a benefit, then a claim to US citizenship may be excused.

There are some other exceptions to the main rule. See: Claiming US Citizenship.

 

Privacy Laws Change For Non-USC and Non-LPR

April 30, 2017

Privacy Laws  Change For Non-USC and Non-LPR

New York Immigration Lawyer Alena Shautsova

The Trump administration has announced new changes to privacy laws that will affect non US citizens and non permanent residents.  Since 2007, the government, and DHS in particular, extended privacy laws protection enjoyed by USC and LPRs to non-immigrants and immigrants (Privacy Policy Guidance Memorandum 2007-01/Privacy Policy Directive 262-12, DHS Privacy Policy Regarding Collection, Use, Retention, and Dissemination of Information on Non-U.S. Persons). Basically, the agency could not release or share information regarding a specific individual freely. It could be done only in specific situations and when  a subject of record would provide a release.  After new Executive order, the administration is changing its policies to strip non citizens and non LPRs from privacy protection. According to the Memo released on April 27, 2017, “Section 14 of E.O. No. 13,768 requires that “[a]gencies shall, to the extent consistent with applicable law, ensure that their privacy policies exclude persons who are not United States citizens or lawful permanent residents from the protections of the Privacy Act regarding personally identifiable information.” Privacy Policy Guidance Memorandum 2007-01/Privacy Policy Directive 262-12 is inconsistent with Section 14 of E.O. 13,768.”

What does this really mean? If one looks at the Memo in question, he/she will find that its language is rather convoluted and the real meaning is hidden somewhere between the lines.

Analyzing the document as a whole, one can make at lease these two conclusions:

1. No Privacy Act protection means easy exchange of collected data by any and all government participants. Like in a Red Riding Hood, the wolf had big eyes to better see the girl, here, the government opens its volts of data to better see potential deportees.

2.  The government will have free hands with regard to  collection, use, dissemination, or maintenance of personally identifiable information.  The only limitation specified in the DHS Memo is “any sharing of such information outside the agency must be compatible with the purposes for which the information was originally collected.” ” Seeking consent is always a preferable privacy practice, and consent should be sought when practical.” However, it is well known that once information is collected and available, to track the purpose of its usage is extremely hard. It is even harder to prove (for a regular person) that his/her information was mishandled and shared in violation of restrictions. And, I have never heard of a situation where a government official would reach out to a non-immigrant and ask for his/her consent prior to share his info with, let’s say, another consulate…

3. The Memo states that ” People not covered by the Privacy Act or Judicial Redress Act (JRA) (which is non USC or non LPRs) still may obtain access to records consistent with FOIA unless disclosure is prohibited by law or if the agency reasonably foresees that disclosure would harm an interest protected by an exemption.” It is in this line that many practitioners may see a problem: will their clients still be allowed to have copies of the government records pertaining to their full immigration history?

To sum it up, there come significant changes in how the government is going to collect and share information regarding non citizens and non-permanent residents. Perhaps, about citizens and LPRs as well…

 

TPS holders Can Adjust in the 9th Circuit (Alaska, California, Arizona, Hawaii)

March 31, 2017

TPS holders Can Adjust in the 9th Circuit (Alaska, California, Arizona, Hawaii)

 

Author: Immigration lawyer Alena Shautsova

 

TPS or temporary protected status is a form of deferred action. One can receive it, if otherwise is qualified, even if he/she entered the country illegally. There is a long lasting dispute whether those who receive TPS are “inspected and admitted” and can adjust their status to permanent residency.

Now, in Ramirez, et al. v. Brown, et al., 3/31/17, the 9th Circuit court holds that TPS is an admission. In 2013, the 6th Circuit court reached the same conclusion in  Flores v. USCIS.

In analyzing the language of the statute regarding TPS, the court held:

“Employing the traditional canons of statutory construction at step one, we conclude that § 1254a(f)(4) unambiguously treats aliens with TPS as being “admitted” for purposes of adjusting status. Because the statutory language is clear, that ends the inquiry: the agency has no interpretive role to play but must instead follow the congressional mandate. Chevron, 467 U.S. at 842–43 & n.9; see I.N.S. v. Cardoza-Fonseca, 480 U.S. 421, 446 (1987).”

In its decision, the court also mentioned the decision from the 11th Circuit, where the court reached an opposite conclusion (that a TPS recipient cannot adjust). The court stresses, however, that a mere existence of a different opinion does not invalidate their analysis.

 

It seems that now, it would be up to the Supreme Court to decide the issue of the TPS holders, and resolve the split between the courts. Until then, applicants in the 6ht and 9th circuits should be able to receive positive decisions on their I 485 if they are beneficiaries of TPS.

 

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has jurisdiction over the district courts in the following districts

 

  • District of Alaska.
  • District of Arizona.
  • Central District of California.
  • Eastern District of California.
  • Northern District of California.
  • Southern District of California.
  • District of Hawaii

 

 

The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has jurisdiction over the district courts in the following districts: