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USCIS is set to increase their filing fees on immigration benefit cases, beginning on October 2nd, 2020.  This means that anyone who wants to file for an immigration benefit, including a greencard, work permit, naturalization, asylum and more should consider filing their forms before the October 2nd date, or there could be a substantial increase in cost.


What are the new filing fees for a greencard application?


Don’t be fooled by the $10 decrease in filing fee for the I-485 application for a greencard from $1140 to $1130.  The total fees have actually dramatically increased.  The old fee used to include the I-765, which is an application for a work permit while the greencard application is pending.  Because the processing time for the greencard can be so long, currently up to 3 years in our jurisdiction, almost everyone is going to have to file an I-765 to obtain a work permit, which is usually approved within about 6 months.  The new fee for the I-765 is $550.

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There was a national victory yesterday in the ongoing litigation involving DACA – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.  And while immigrants and immigration attorneys alike cheered the important U.S. Supreme Court decision, the jubilation has been tempered by the revelation of what the decision does and does not actually do for DACA eligible recipients.  So, let’s take an in-depth look at the case, the issues before the Court and the Court’s holding.


What was the actual issue before the Supreme Court?


Under the Obama administration, DACA was expanded and a new form of deferred action called DAPA was announced.  Many states filed for injunctions to prevent the expansion of DACA and the implementation of DAPA.  When the Trump administration came to power, the Attorney General told the Acting Director of Department of Homeland Security that DAPA and DACA were illegal and therefore, she should discontinue DACA.  So, DHS allowed for a renewal for those whose DACA was about to expire, but no new DACA applications would be accepted and no other DACA renewals would be accepted.  Multiple petitioners filed for injunctions claiming that the decision was a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) because it was “arbitrary and capricious.” Various Circuit Courts agreed with the Petitioners and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.

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Beginning on February 24th, 2020, most non-citizens applying for a greencard have been subject to a dramatic change in the Public Charge Rule.  This change is going to present an additional burden on those seeking a greencard, including the need to fill out and submit a new form, the need to present additional evidence, and the potential need for a joint sponsor.  It will also increase the number of greencard denials.


What is the Public Charge Rule?


Section 212(a)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act makes any person likely to become a public charge inadmissible.  The applicant has the burden of proof.  This means that most applicants for greencards must prove to the government that you are not likely to become a public charge.  In the past, it was usually enough to submit an I-864, Affidavit of Support from the Petitioner (U.S. citizen spouse, parent, etc.) along with tax returns showing that the Petitioner made 125% of the federal poverty level.  This is no longer the case.  Now, the government requires a completely new form, Form I-944 to be filed by the applicant, along with new additional evidence.

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There are two different categories of people who are in the United States without authorization.  First, there are people who were lawfully “admitted or paroled” and then overstayed their visa or otherwise violated the terms of the admission.  Second, there are people who entered the United States without authorization or inspection.  Different laws apply to each of these categories of individuals.  How a person entered the United States can have a drastic effect on whether they are eligible to get a green card inside the United States or whether they will have to wait outside the United States for many years before obtaining a greencard.


What if I entered the United States with a visa, but overstayed and now I have a United States citizen spouse who wants to apply for me?


According to the Department of Homeland Security’s 2018 Report, there were 666,582 overstays in the year 2018.  An overstay is a person that was granted authorization to enter and stay in the United States for a temporary period of time and then did not leave the United States within that authorized period.  This can be overstaying on the visa waiver program, a visitor visa, student visa, or any other temporary visa.  A person who overstays their visa is deportable.  However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that person will be deported.   The government forgives the overstay in many situations and will allow the person to obtain a greencard within the United States if they are otherwise eligible.  For example, under the current policies, USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) will, within their discretion, allow a person who has overstayed their visa to obtain a greencard based on marriage to a United States citizen.  This forgiveness usually only extends to family based applications and not employment based.  There are also many considerations that can affect eligibility, so it is important for any person with any immigration violation, like an overstay status, to consult with an immigration attorney before filing any immigration paperwork.  USCIS can issue a Notice to Appear and place a person in removal (deportation) proceedings, so consult with an immigration attorney to understand the risks.

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In Florida, driving is considered by our courts as a privilege and not a right.  This is important because it means that the State of Florida has more authority to grant, deny, suspend, or revoke driver’s licenses than it would if you had a constitutional or statutory right to drive.  But people need to drive.  It is hard to exist and prosper without having the ability to drive from place to place.  Every State creates its own rules on who can drive and when. So, what are Florida’s rules when it comes to non-citizens?


The State of Florida and Driver’s Licenses for Non-Citizens


Some states are more immigrant friendly than others when it comes to issuing driver’s licenses.  Immigration is controlled by federal law.  Driver’s licenses is controlled by state law.  Each state can develop their own laws and rules on who can drive within their state.  Some states aren’t really concerned about a person’s immigration status.  The State of Florida requires its residents to submit evidence of their lawful status, or in some cases, evidence of their efforts to obtain lawful status, in order to obtain a driver’s license.

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Did you know that the mere admission of past criminal conduct can lead the government to deny your admission into the United States.  It can lead to a denial of a green card.  It can lead to deportation.  Many unsuspecting people believe that admitting to minor criminal conduct that happened years in the past will be forgiven by immigration officials. That cannot be further from the truth.


Why would they deny my admission or deport me for simply admitting to past criminal conduct?


§212(a)(2)(A)(i) of the Immigration Act states that, “any alien…who admits having committed, or who admits committing acts which constitute the essential elements of … a crime involving moral turpitude…or an attempt or conspiracy to commit such a crime…or a violation of any law…relating to a controlled substance…is inadmissible.”  This means that no conviction is required.  Therefore, if you admit to committing certain crimes, you are inadmissible and  you must seek a waiver to be admitted into the United States, or to be able to get a greencard, or to be able to stay in the U.S.

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In 2018, the United States Supreme Court opened up an avenue of relief from deportation for many non-U.S. Citizens in the landmark decision of Perreira v. Sessions, 138 S.Ct. 2105 (2018). That avenue of relief has been closed down by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) in a newly released decision of Matter of Mendoza-Hernandez, Matter of Capula-Cortes, 27 I&N Dec. 520 (BIA 2019).  Here’s how the new decision will affect people in deportation proceedings:


What did the U.S. Supreme Court say in Perreira v. Sessions?


Many people believe that when a non-citizen is in the United States without lawful status, they are automatically deported.  However, there are many forms of relief that can help a person stay in the country.  Some of those forms of relief require that the person has been inside the United States for a certain amount of time.  For example, a person who does not have a greencard and has overstayed their visa or entered without authorization has to have been in the United States for 10 years to ask for “Cancellation of Removal.”  If the government files a Notice to Appear with the Court within that 10 year period, the person is not eligible to seek “Cancellation of Removal.”

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There are countless blossoming romances happening right now all around the world.  Many of those relationships involve couples who have large age differences, religious differences, cultural differences, and more.  Often, U.S. citizens fall in love with and marry people from other countries.  The process of obtaining a greencard (officially known as a Lawful Permanent Resident card) for that spouse should be easy.  But it’s not.  Even if the marriage is clearly real, the non-citizen spouse can be denied a greencard if you do not submit sufficient evidence that the marriage is real.


What do I have to prove in order to get my non-citizen spouse a greencard?


The process is different depending on your circumstances (i.e. is your spouse in the country or out of country), but one thing is always required.  If you are filing a petition with USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) to establish your relationship to your spouse, you will have to prove that the marriage is “bona fide.”  In other words, you have to prove that your marriage is real.  It was not entered into for the sole purpose of evading the immigration laws.  This doesn’t mean that a couple can’t decide to get married earlier than they normally would so they aren’t separated when the non-citizen has to leave the country.  It simply means that two people can’t get married solely so the non-citizen can stay in the U.S. when they do not intend to live as husband and wife.

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I have a conditional greencard and am separated or am getting divorced from my U.S. Citizen husband. What do I do?


I married a United States citizen and got a conditional greencard.  Now, it has been 2 years and I have to file to remove the conditions on the greencard to get my 10 year greencard.  My husband/wife and I are separated, divorced, or talking about separating or divorcing.  How will this affect my greencard?


I-751 PETITION TO REMOVE CONDITIONS

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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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