Articles Posted in General Immigration

USCIS—the government agency that receives most of the country’s asylum applications—has opened a new office in Tampa, Florida. Before this happened, everyone who was not in immigration court and who applied for asylum in the entire state of Florida had to go to Miami for their asylum interview. Sure there were exceptions, on occasion, asylum officers would go to Jacksonville, Florida to conduct interviews, but those interviews were few and far between.

Now, people from Pensacola to Jacksonville to Tampa no longer have to make the long and expensive trip to Miami for an asylum interview. Now, people from the Tampa Bay area, parts of Central and all of North Florida will head to Tampa for their interviews to see if they will be granted asylum. This is great news for everyone involved. This will make it easier for asylum applicants to travel to their interviews, this will make asylum interviews happen more frequently for all Floridians as there are now two offices and more officers conducting interviews. This will also make it more cost-effective for asylum applicants to bring their attorneys to their asylum interviews.

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USCIS has not yet released all the details or the exact geographical boundaries for the Tampa asylum office. What we do know is they are already open as of June, 2021 and they are already conducting interviews. The office is in the same building as ICE, so if you have been reporting to the Tampa ICE office for check-ins and you are called for an asylum interview, you will go to the same building. The address of the office is 524 W Cypress St, Tampa, Florida, 33607 right near the Tampa International Airport.

TPS is back for citizens of Haiti! USCIS announced that as of Friday May 21, 2021, Haitians in the United States may qualify for Temporary Protected Status, also known as TPS.

https://www.dhs.gov/news/2021/05/22/secretary-mayorkas-designates-haiti-temporary-protected-status-18-months

WHO WILL QUALIFY FOR THE NEW HAITIAN TPS?

The U.S. Supreme Court recently issued a decision in Niz-Chavez v. Garland that could help thousands of people who have been in the U.S. for over a decade and who do not have lawful immigration status. The exact people who are helped by this decision are people who are or were in immigration court removal proceedings and are eligible for a form of relief called Cancellation of Removal for Certain Non-Permanent Residents. This decision can help people who have been in the U.S. for more than a decade, have good moral character and who have a close relative who has lawful immigration status and who will suffer greatly if they are deported. There are other requirements for Cancellation of Removal which are outlined below.

WHO WILL BE HELPED BY THIS DECISION?

If you are or were in immigration court removal proceedings and you would be eligible for Cancellation of Removal, but immigration officers sent you a document called a Notice to Appear less than 10 years after you entered the U.S., this decision could be a game changer for your case. Why? Because in 2018, the Supreme Court said in a decision called Pereira v. Sessions that if the Notice to Appear you received does not have the time, date and location of your first Court hearing, then it is legally deficient. Why is that important? Because of something called the stop time rule. The stop time rule says that if you are otherwise eligible for Cancellation of Removal, but you are sent an NTA before you have been then the U.S. for the required 10 years, then you are not eligible for Cancellation of Removal. That is because receiving an NTA stops the clock on your 10 years of physical presence in the U.S., which is required to qualify for Cancellation.

If my N-400 Application for Naturalization (U.S. Citizenship) has been denied by USCIS, what should I do now, what can I do now? What chances do I have to still become a U.S. citizen?  What will happen next? Will I be deported? Do I lose my status and my green card?

These are all very common questions that lawful permanent residents ask themselves after they receive a denial letter after an N-400 citizenship interview. Receiving a denial letter from USCIS telling you that you will not become a citizen may be heartbreaking to people who have held a life-long dream to become a U.S. citizen. But an N-400 denial letter is often not the end of the road and there are many options available to people who receive an N-400 denial letter.

The first thing to remember is that you do not only get one opportunity to apply for U.S. citizenship. That’s right, even if you are denied, most of the time, you can reapply; you do not get just one bite at the apple. So depending on why you were denied, you may be able to wait a few days, months or years and apply again.

It has finally happened, President Biden is set to announce that as of Monday, March 8, 2021, Venezuelans in the United States may qualify for Temporary Protected Status, also known as TPS.

WHO WILL QUALIFY FOR VENEZUELAN TPS?

The exact requirements for Venezuelan TPS have not yet been published (they should be soon), but based upon the TPS law and past TPS announcements, here is what I anticipate will be the TPS requirement for Venezuelans:

On his last full day as President, Donald Trump issued a “Memorandum on Deferred Enforced Departure for Certain Venezuelans.” There is much confusion about what this means for Venezuelan citizens in the United States. USCIS, the agency that handles applications for immigration benefits like Deferred Enforced Departure (DED), has not yet issued guidance or instructions for how to apply for Deferred Enforced Departure. However, other countries and regions have benefited from Deferred Enforced Departure in the past and that can provide guidance for how Venezuelan Deferred Enforced Departure will be rolled out by the Department of Homeland Security.

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Here is what we do know about Venezuelan Deferred Enforced Departure:

  • It will last for at least 18 months and can be renewed;

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Few things have a more dramatic effect on a person’s immigration case than an allegation of False Claim to U.S. citizenship.  A recent Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) decision and resulting policy change by USCIS further ensnare people into this ground of inadmissibility.  Let’s take a look:


What is a False Claim to U.S. Citizenship?


Under §212(a)(6)(C)(ii) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, any person who falsely represents, or has falsely represented himself or herself to be a citizen of the United States for any purpose or benefit under this Act (including section 274A) or any other Federal or State law is inadmissible. Under §237(a)(3)(D)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, a person who falsely claims to be a United States citizen is deportable.   This often comes up in the context of a non-citizen who registers to vote or checks a box on the I-9 form stating that they are a U.S. citizen in order to get a job or in some other non-immigration related situation where the person is asked for evidence that they are in the United States lawfully.  Then when the person applies for a greencard or naturalization, the the issue comes up.

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Many immigration cases can take up to a year or more during what is called the normal processing time.  For example, the local Jacksonville USCIS office has a published processing time of 8 months to 15.5 months for a spouse of a United States Citizen to obtain a greencard.  If your case is within the normal processing time, then the only thing you can do is wait for the government to process your case.  You can check the normal processing times for each type of application or petition for each office or center here: https://egov.uscis.gov/processing-times/: But what if it has been much longer than the normal processing time?  We’re going to discuss some options that may be available to you.


What is the first thing I should do if my case is outside the normal processing time?


You can always enter your Receipt Number into the USCIS online case status system.

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Unfortunately, immigration lawyers around the country often get calls from petrified non-U.S. citizens who are in an abusive relationship and living in fear of deportation.  A United States citizen who marries a non-citizen can file an I-130 petition on the spouses behalf to pave the way for the immigrant spouse to obtain a greencard.  If the United States citizen withdraws the petition, the immigrant spouse can no longer adjust based on the marriage to the U.S. citizen.  So, in some situations, U.S. citizens take advantage of this leverage to abuse and control the non-citizen spouse.  They say things like, “If you don’t do what I say, I’ll have you deported.”  They threaten to call immigration and withdraw the petition.  They threaten deportation if the abused non-citizen spouse contacts law enforcement.  For these reasons, the government passed a specific act to protect these victims.  It is called the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and it allows an abused spouse to obtain a greencard, even if the U.S. citizen spouse withdraws the I-130 petition and even if they divorce their U.S. citizen spouse.


What is VAWA?


The Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA is a  federal law that was passed in 1994 designed to address domestic violence against women.  The law is broad and encompassing, but one of the goals of VAWA was to protect immigrant victims of domestic violence and to help them escape their abusers.  VAWA allows immigrant spouses or intended spouses of United States citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents to obtain a greencard (lawful permanent resident status) without the need to have the U.S. citizen or LPR spouse petition on his or her behalf.

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The term “adjustment of status” is an immigration legal term that refers to anyone who has been “admitted or paroled” into the United States who “adjusts” status to that of a lawful permanent resident.  In other words, if you are inside the United States, you would adjust your status to obtain a greencard.  If you were outside the United States, you would apply at a consult for an immigrant visa and then enter as a lawful permanent resident.   Adjustment of status is different than a “change of status,” where you would change status from one temporary visa, for example an F visa (student visa) to another temporary visa, for example, and H1B visa (employment visa).  Adjustment of status is the fist step towards becoming  a United States Citizen.


Who can adjust status and obtain a green card?


There are several ways to adjust status in the United States.  The most common ways are through marriage to a United States citizen or through asylum.  However, victims of crime and those with certain employment opportunities or investment opportunities may also be able to adjust status.

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