I remember the day when client X came to my office in despair: the client was from Ukraine, and belonged to the LGBT community and reached the point when returning to Ukraine would mean harassment, physical harm and, most importantly, mental torture on every level. I, myself, originally am from Belarus, one of the countries of the former Soviet Union, and know very well how persons that belong to the LGBT community are being treated, and how those who support them are being treated. I know that many countries of the former Soviet Union made considerable progress towards Democracy, but LGBT issues are not the area where any progress was made. In some countries, a person can simply be murdered in the streets for being gay or looking gay
I knew that X could not go back, the only things that would wait for X there would be despair, pain and sheer darkness. We submitted X’s claim and started waiting for the interview. The biggest challenge, in this case, was to convince a US Asylum officer to look at more than the official reports of the new Ukrainian government that announce improvement with regard to the LGBT’ rights. In addition to the official reports we presented the stories of real people who got hurt, the media reports that quote Ukrainian officials using derogatory language when speaking about LGBT rights.
After the interview, we received an approval. The officer did consider all the materials we presented, including the recent news articles. I was and still am very happy for X who now will start a new, happy life in the USA, X’s new home.
Sharing a Success Story: NUNC PRO TUNC ASYLUM
Back in 2015, a family came to my officer: a mother and a son. They were in much distress as they received bad news: their son’s green card application was denied and the decision stated that the son lost his ability to obtain a so long-awaited green card because his mother became a US citizen. The family could not understand what happened. They thought they did everything right, after all, they consulted with an attorney before submitting mother’s application for naturalization!
I look at the paperwork: the mother received her status through asylum. She later petitioned her dependent son to join her in the US. Naturally, she was eager to become a green card holder and a citizen at the first opportunity. However, the clock for dependents runs differently than for the principal applicants. To become a green card holder, a dependent has to meet the requirements independently. The “qualifying relationship” between the dependent and the principal applicant has to exist for the dependent to be able to apply for a green card successfully. Specific events, such as divorce, marriage, naturalization will break the qualifying relationship.
That is precisely what happened in this case: the mother naturalized before the son was able to get his green card, and now son got stuck in limbo without a qualifying relative.
Luckily, the US laws do not leave such unsuspected dependents without help. There is something called a nunc pro tunc asylum. A dependent would have to file his/her asylum application and once it is approved, apply for a green card. We had a plan!
We filed the application and started waiting. Once the son was called for an interview, and the application was approved, it took us only a few months to get his green card by mail. I was very happy for the family. The biggest Immigration issue they had was resolved successfully!
Success Story: Winning Extraordinary Ability Self-petition For A Musician In 2 Weeks
Lady X walked into my office crying. She was devastated. She stated that over a year ago, her husband, a very famous and talented musician, filed his green card self-petition. She and her entire family have been living in the US waiting for the approval of her husband’s extraordinary ability petition, but they received a denial.
I googled X’s husband’s name, but I could not find any information, and I was not sure what was happening. In today’s world, we are very eager to rely on the Internet for all the answers, but luckily, I was born and grew up without the Internet. I realized that if a person is not publicizing himself or herself on Facebook, YouTube or Twitter, it does not mean that a person is not well-known in the area of his/her professional expertise. I started by asking X to tell me more about her husband. I wanted to know where he played, when, with who, etc.
X told me that her husband is a fantastic accordion player. There were articles about him featured in popular Eastern European papers; he received distinguished honors from all around the world; but what impressed me the most, was the fact that he was invited to perform and give concerts with such stars as Vanessa Mae, Spivakov, and Matsuev. Another point that impressed me was that Y’s husband devoted a lot of his time to charity and fundraising concerts. On a regular basis, he would spend time playing for little kids in the hospitals, orphanages, and fundraisers. I could not understand, why his petition was denied and what went wrong. He was donating his time and money. I, myself, went to a music school many years ago, and even though I do not play cello anymore, I can understand that to reach the level Y’s husband was at, he for sure, had to be one of the top musicians in the world. The only issue was that Y’s husband, as a pure talent, would not worry about articles about himself in the papers. He would worry about how to make his audience happy, and how to touch the hearts of those for whom he was performing.
So, I asked X to give me her husband’s entire file. Upon review, I have noticed that the evidence was either missing or presented in such a sporadic way, that even for me it was hard to understand what was going on, and which evidence was submitted in support of which criteria under the USCIS guidelines. The problem was that we were in the post-denial stage where you do not have that many options. After a denial of the I 140 petition, a person has 30 days to either appeal or file a motion to reopen/reconsider. We chose to file the motion. I did a lot of research, and we presented more evidence to support the musician’s claim. However, we were pressed for time, and there was something else on our way: a previous lousy impression and a poor presentation. The initially submitted evidence was hard to comprehend; there was no logic in the order the file was presented. The key points were not explained or were simply missing. Making sense out of the presentation was hard. The motion to reopen that was limited to only a couple of points was denied, but we decided not to give up.
I am far from being the semi-professional musician I once was. But one does not need to be a professional musician to understand that someone is so amazingly talented, knowledgeable and skillful that s/he truly deserves the recognition and ability to choose the place where s/he wants to live and create. This was my client. I knew we could overcome the initial poor impression if we tried again. We filled in the gaps in the client’s evidence; re-did the entire presentation; I drafted a comprehensive memorandum explaining how my client met each criterion from the USCIS list. Even though he was not so popular online, he is extremely well-known in the music community: we submitted letters from the World famous virtuosos who knew my client and were able to judge the level of his talent.
So, about a month and a half after the motion was denied, we refiled the entire case under the premium processing. This type of filing allows an applicant to get a fast decision: within 14 days USCIS either grants or denies the case, or issues an RFE. In 14 days, we received the approval notice. When I received the approval notice, I could not wait to call X to share the good news with her and tell her that she should not be worrying anymore. She was endlessly grateful, and so was her husband. The difference a quality work can make in a case is invaluable to your clients.
I140 Alein Of Extraordinary Ability Granted In Two Weeks
Client Y contacted me requesting some clarifications regarding his O status. His qualifications were truly outstanding, but he was not sure if he had enough to sponsor himself for a green card as an alien of extraordinary ability. In fact, he shared with me that he tried applying himself but received a denial.
After I had learned more about his experience and achievements, I advised him that he should be able to qualify for the E1 1 category (alien of extraordinary ability). We started to prepare a new petition. Even though this client already proved to USCIS that he was an alien of exceptionally ability (because he was granted an O status), he would still have to meet all the criteria for E1 1. I 140 self-petition and I 129 petition filed for him by his O employer are two separate applications, and quite different eligibility criteria have to be met. If one is familiar with what USCIS is looking for, and how to organize necessary evidence, it is “easy” to win one’s case.
The key is preparation and explanation of how the applicant meets each of the proposed criteria. A detailed research of each point has to be made and presented to USCIS officer so that the officer does not have to guess whether or not the criterion is met. My client also requested that we file his I 140 using premium processing. Generally, I advise my clients to stay away from this option because often it results in unwarranted RFEs. We took a risk here, however. To both of our satisfaction, in about two weeks we received an approval of his I 140.
Succseful Adjustment Of Status For A Canadian Citizen
It is very easy for a citizen of Canada to enter the US. Most of the visitors from Canada do not apply for a US tourist visa and freely use an entrance under the special agreement between the US and Canada that allows them to enter and stay in the US for up to 6 months without a visa. Of course, it is possible for a Canadian citizen to use a regular process and obtain a visa from a consulate, but most of the visitors do not think about the “difference” in legal treatment of two kinds of entry and simply buy a train ticket or come to the US using their cars.
The “surprise” comes later, and only if a Canadian overstays his authorized stay and would like to either change the tourist status to a work visa, let’s say, or become a US permanent resident.
That it exactly what happened to one of my clients. Ms. Y had no plans of staying in the US when she bought her train ticket, and in fact did not even keep a copy of it, as she never planned to stay in the US for long, and did not think that she would need evidence of “legal” entry. Ms. Y married a US citizen some time after her entry to the US, her 6 months authorized stay expired, and she realized that she wanted to become a lawful permanent resident well after her entry. Unfortunately, the USCIS does not have any “special” treatment for citizens of Canada when it comes to proving the legal entry. In fact, just like citizens of Germany, Russia, or Mexico, Canadians have to prove that they were inspected and admitted when they entered the US in order to be eligible for the adjustment of status. Ms. Y was pretty stressed out about this fact when she and her spouse came to my office. A denial of the adjustment of status application was not an option for her.
Unlike some jurisdictions, New York has a rigid policy when it comes to “waved in” adjustment of status applications. However, New York USCIS does consider secondary evidence of inspection and admission such as a detailed affidavits or testimony of the parties with the first -hand knowledge of the applicant’s entry, copies of tickets, stamps of entry in the passports of the accompanying travelers, etc. It is USCIS’ discretion whether or not to consider the secondary evidence, as well as to grant or not the adjustment application. In the case of Ms. Y, USCIS initially challenged the validity of her entry, arguing that because she did not possess a stamp in her passport or copy of her ticket her entry could have been done through a nonauthorized point. However, later USCIS agreed to grant Ms. Y’s adjustment of status application once they listened to her credible testimony, and considered other secondary evidence of her legal entry: an admission stamp in the passport of the person who traveled with her, as well a copy of the credit card statement showing the purchase of the Amtrak ticket. Ms. Y’s adjustment application was granted, and now she is a green card holder!
Succsess Story: Adjustment Of Status After Parole In Place
Ms. X came to my office with her husband asking me to take a look at her Immigration case and see if anything could have been done. Ms. X has had an attorney already, but was not happy with the results and lack of options that attorney offered. Even though Ms. X was happily married to a US citizen for several years and the couple had a child together, Ms. X could not adjust her status because she did not have a “legal entry.” She also could not qualify for DACA...
I spoke with the couple about their lives, and then asked them what they were doing. Mr. X mentioned his employment, and also that he was a past military member. Aha! That was exactly what we were looking for: certain relatives of the military members may apply for something called parole in place: it is a discretionary relief/benefit that USCIS or ICE may grant to applicants inside the US. It should be noted that parole in place may also be granted (very rarely, but possibly) to those who do not have a family member in the military. If parole in place is granted, a person who entered without inspection gets “paroled” or “enters” the US legally without leaving the country and without a need for a waiver.
I advised Ms. X that we can try filing for her adjustment after she receives a parole in place. To receive it however, one must file a rather detailed application, because this measure is discretionary and one need to convince DHS that the applicant deserves it, as well as the military member would benefit from the applicant’s presence in the United States. (For the correct burden of proof and qualifications, please see: Policy Memorandum). We worked hard on the application, and in several months it was approved. After that, we filed for an adjustment of status. My clients were very nervous because Ms. X had to live with the burden of being labeled “illegal” for more than a decade in the US. The interview in fact went very smoothly, and it was one of those moments when we could feel that even the government officers were happy for my client. In about a week, we received a green card by mail...
Adjustment Of Status Is Granted After More Than 16 Year Wait
Pedro (not his real name) came to our office on an advice of a friend. He has lived in the United States for as long as he could remember so to say, but did not have “papers.” He was not even sure if anything could have been done at that point but wanted to check. Ms. Shautsova asked Pedro how he came to the US, and he admitted that he crossed the border many years ago. He also stated that he tried applying for TPS long time ago, but something went wrong, he was not sure what it was. Ms. Shautsova asked him about his family ties in the United States, and he responded that all of his siblings are US citizens, and his mother is a permanent resident. Then, Pedro showed an old, almost falling apart piece of paper that decided his Immigration fate…It was a notice of approval of I130 filed by his mother many years ago, with the priority date… prior to April 30, 2001… Many Immigration practitioners (or at least I hope so) would understand that this was the key to Pedro’s adjustment or green card. Surprisingly, Pedro said that he saw Immigration lawyers prior to Ms. Shautsova, and all of them stated that they could not help him because of the illegal entry. They probably overlooked the old I-130 receipt, or were not aware of the 245(i) grandfathering relief the law provides to those who entered the country without inspection or remained here unlawfully if a family based or an employment based petition was filed for them prior to April 30, 2001. The rest was easy: luckily, Pedro did not get married, and his mother did not become a US citizen. This eliminated dangers of automatic revocation of the petition and petition’s “jumping” through different preference categories. At the adjustment interview, the officer carefully looked at Pedro, and his elderly mother, and said, with a smile, the “magic words” Pedro was waiting to hear for over a decade: "I approve your case..."
Success Story: Parole In Place Granted
The Garcia family (the client identifies are protected and the names are not real) came to my office in hope to resolve the long-lasting situation: the wife was a naturalized U.S. citizen, but the husband was “illegal”: he was brought to the U.S. as a child and was explained that he came under someone else’s name, but twenty years later all attempts to restore the records of that purported entry were unsuccessful. The couple was very sad, as the husband’s inability to travel or legally work in the U.S. impeded family’s future. I looked at the documents and spoke with them. It appeared, that the wife used to be in the US military, and even though she was discharged, I immediately thought of a possibility of parole in place for the husband. I explained to the couple, that if our submission is successful, the husband will be able to legalize in the US, and the ordeal will be over. At first, they did not believe me. It was understandable: after spending tens of thousands of dollars on different attorneys and years of waiting, they could not accept that the solution to the years of their problem was so close. By the end of our meeting, they were eager to start the work. A parole in place application is discretionary relief, and also it is supposed to be “freely granted”, one has to submit a strong application, demonstrating factors in favor of exercise of discretion. It took us several months to collect all the records and documents, including medical records, affidavits, photos, financial records. We submitted our application and started waiting. About five months later, we received a notice for an appointment with USCIS/ICE. The client was stressed out and I accompanied him to the USCIS office. At the appointment, the ICE officer handed the I-94 card to my client and wished him good luck… I could see tears in his eyes, as he was putting the new I-94 in his “special” file… Now, my client’s door to a green card was finally opened.
Success Story: Successful Adjustment of Status In Removal Proceedings
It has been a long journey for Mrs. and Mr. Bold (not their real names) who came to my office about two years ago. By the time of their first visit with my office, Mr. Bold had lived in the U.S. after the expiration of his visa for some time. During that time he started dating future Mrs. Bold but they were not married yet. They came to my office after Mr. Bold was arrested by ICE officers, and was offered to come to their office to sign a voluntarily departure.
Future Mrs. Bold, who is a U.S. citizen was in despair. She loved Mr. Bold and they were already engaged but were saving money for the wedding, and now she had to lose the love of her life because of possible deportation. The couple told me that their neighbor advised them not to show up in court or for the meeting with ICE at all. The neighbor further confessed that he did not do it, and remained in the country for 10 years… The neighbor failed to explain that for all this years he led the life of a fugitive, with no “papers”, no employment authorization and in constant fear of being “picked up” by ICE.
After listening to the couple’s story, I told them that not showing up in court was not an option. A person who misses the court hearing about which he was properly informed risks to be ordered removed out of the U.S. in absentia, and will be barred for 5 years for applying for any sort of relief from removal.
Further, I explained to the couple that they can go ahead and get married, and that Mr. Bold’s then Immigration issues are not a bar to their marriage. I also advised them, that in fact, once they get married, Mr. Bold might be able to remain in the U.S. and even get his green card, if the USCIS verifies that the marriage was performed not to avoid removal, and that there are no other bars to Mr. Bold’ adjustment of status.
I told the couple that it will take some time to go through all the steps, and that because (despite of their engagement) they will be officially getting married after the ICE started the proceedings against Mr. Bold, the USCIS will scrutinize their relationship even more than those marriages that were commenced when applicants were not placed in Immigration proceedings.
Needless to say, that all went well. We did have to appear in court a couple of times, but eventually were able to adjust Mr. Bold’s status with USCIS. Recently, he received his green card, as USCIS and now is ready to bring his wife to his home country and introduce her to his family.
Citizenship Is Granted
I would like to share stories of three of my clients whose application for naturalization were recently granted. I will change their real names but will preserve the facts. Client X came to my office after X’s application for citizenship was denied as the reviewing officer found X lacked good moral character. Because X came after the appeal time has run, we could not file a notice for re-hearing. In the denial letter X was told to wait for 5 years before re-applying for citizenship. X came to my office when approximately a year of wait time was left. Now, the important issue here was that had X had a competent attorney present with X at the first interview, X would not have been denied and received citizenship much sooner. Why? Because the lawyer who was filling out X’s papers failed to correctly respond to one question on the application form: at the time of the application X had some taxes due and had a payment plan in place on how to pay them off to the government. But the lawyer answered the question in the negative. As a result, the reviewing officer suspected that X wanted to game the system and lied on his application. X did not have sufficient ability to explain what happened, the lawyer who submitted the application did not attend the interview. X had to wait for 5 years before X could re-apply! However, the new interview was also filed with challenges. Now the tricky part was that there is a question on the application form as to if an applicant ever lied to the Immigration authorities… One may regard that unchallenged finding of the officer that X lied on his first application, should cause positive answer on the new application, and if the answer is in the negative, a new accusation of fraud may follow... This time though, I was by X’s side and was able to explain to the officer what happened, and that X never intended to lie on application, and in fact was assured by previous attorney that X should have responded to the question the way X did... The application was granted this time...
Another client of mine, Y’s, application for naturalization was granted after we able to create a plan on how to approach the English and history test portion of the process. Y came to office feared that Y will never become a citizen due to English language test requirement. After talking to Y and inquiring as to Y’s education and experience in the US, we decided that Y’s fears are unfounded, and rather than trying to apply for a waiver of these requirements, Y shall try studying English and the U.S. history. In fact, almost a year later, Y was granted citizenship, and the officer actually praised Y for advance knowledge of the history requirements. Here, Y did not apply for the medical waiver, as Y did not need it. Some people fear obstacles before they actually meet them and see that they have an ability to overcome them.
It was not the case for my other client Z who had disabilities and was not able struggling with the history and English test requirements. So, after several attempts to learn the language, we determined that it is best if Z appeals to help of a health professional who evaluated Z and concluded that Z should be exempted from the test requirements. Z, likewise, was successful with the citizenship application, but this time we had to take a different route.
Each case is different, and a competent attorney has to see the best way to serve client’s interest in each particular case.
Success Story: Termination Of Proceedings For Spouse Of A Us Citizen
Ms. Amilie called our office asking if she needed to hire an attorney: ICE came to her house where she lived with a roommate. ICE agents were actually looking for her roommate, but since Ms. Amilie was right there, they also asked to see her immigration documents… Needless to say, Ms. Amilie’s visa had long expired… We recommended that Ms. Amilie had attorney’s number handy: since ICE people took her passport and copied all her information, it was very likely that she was going to be served with Notice to Appear. In the meantime, Ms. Amilie was getting ready to wed her long term boyfriend, a US citizen. The couple was saving money for the wedding for some time; and the only reason why they had not married several months earlier was due to death in the family…
The couple was finally able to wed after the service of Notice to Appear, but before the couple’s first court date. Ms. Amilie’s husband filed I 130 petition and we appeared at the first hearing. The couple was very nervous, as at this point Ms. Amilie could not leave her husband, and their whole life depended on the outcome of the court proceedings.
The next step was to pass the USCIS interview and convince the authorities that Ms. Amilie’s marriage was not performed with the sole purpose to bypass immigration laws. We worked with the couple to prepare paper evidence and prepare them for the interview so that they felt comfortable with questions. The interview was passed successfully. However, Ms. Amile was still in Immigration court proceedings, and as such only the judge was able to decide if she could become a green card holder. Currently, the wait time for an Individual hearing in New York Immigration court is more than three years. The couple was devastated: they need a faster solution.
We filed a motion to terminate Ms. Amilie’s proceedings based on the fact of successful interview and asking for permission to file further paperwork with the USCIS rather than the court. We discussed the case with the prosecutor, and the prosecutor did not object to the motion. The Immigration Judge granted the motion and Ms. Amilie successfully filed for adjustment of status. She was no longer in removal proceedings, and with the light heart, now, as green card holder, she can travel to her home country and visit her grandparents…
Success Story: Citizenship Application is Granted
Client V called our office asking if she would qualify for citizenship as she was in permanent resident status for three years already. She was worried because by that time she was divorced from her husband. She called other offices before, and she was told that she would have to wait for all 5 years before she could submit her application for naturalization. However, the attorneys that she called missed an important fact from her story: client V was a beneficiary of self- petition and adjustment of status as a victim of abusive treatment by her US citizen husband. Usually, if a person receives permanent resident status as a result of a marriage to a US citizen, he/she can apply for naturalization 90 days before the third anniversary of his/her green card status. However, if a person divorces the spouse before that term, than he/she must wait for five years to apply for citizenship.
However, certain individuals, beneficiaries of approved I-360 self-petitions and I-751 waivers based on abuse, who were or are still married to abusive US citizens, even if the spouses do not live together anymore, qualify for citizenship the same way as couples in a vital marital union.
The same is true for those who were granted VAWA cancellation of removal were the applicant was the intended spouse of a US citizen.
Needless to say, that even when we explained this exception to V, she was still nervous and requested an attorney to accompany her to the citizenship interview: by then she has received conflicting information from too many sources, and just wanted to make sure that the process would go smoothly.
The interview went well, of course, and shortly V was scheduled for her oath ceremony...
I 751 Interview Passed Successfully
We have noticed that recently USCIS "likes" to call for an interview I-751 applications or those who applied to remove condition on their permanent resident status. We are receiving many phone calls from people who cannot understand why they received a request for more evidence after they submitted, they believed, sufficient proof of a real marriage. One person told me when she received such a request and called the USCIS, the officer on the phone told her that the reason for the RFE (request for more evidence) was that the applicant and her husband did not have children together and, despite having sufficient capital in the accounts, did not buy any property. I, of course, was outraged, as it is not the government’s business when to start a family and when to make one of the largest investments of your life, and it certainly should not be used to judge the relationship. I explained to that person, that she should try to shift the USCIS ‘ focus from the things she and her husband did not do, to the things they did do. After all, there can be hundreds of hypothetical things that, in the eyes of somebody (in our case a USCIS adjudicator) who is not familiar with your life, should have been done. But each relationship is different, and each couple is unique.
This was the case of a couple who came to my office. Despite the fact that they have been together for over four years, they did not have much to show on the paper: there was no common car insurance, as they did not have a car, no children, no jointly owned property, they did not even have a stable residence. The husband lost his job after the couple got married and they went together through some really tough times. USCIS, however, instead of trying to understand the circumstances of their marriage, demanded "proof" of joint assets, birth certificates of children, life insurance policies, etc. The couple was also called for the interview.
We met with the couple prior to the interview and first examined all the documents they had submitted as well as the RFE. We prepared response to the RFE, and started preparing for the interview. We discussed the couple’s concerns and possible questions at the interview. We reviewed their “problematic” sides and, step by step, addressed all the possible issues. On the day of the interview the couple arrived on time, they were calm and confident. They had no trouble “passing” the interview and received the 10 year- green card in two weeks.
Success Story: Long Awaited Citizenship Is Granted
Citizenship is an ultimate goal for most of the US immigrants. Sometimes, getting it is a matter of filing the application forms correctly, and sometimes it takes a green card holder years to prove to the US government that he or she should be naturalized. It happened in case of one of our clients who fought for his blue passport for over five years.
Unfortunately, Mr. Ali’s case is not that uncommon. He came to the US as a child, his parents became citizens passed his eighteen‘s birthday; he even served in the US military, but for some reason he did not apply for the citizenship at that time.
At some point in his life, Mr. Ali received a minor criminal charge and before Padilla he plead guilty to it. With years, Mr. Ali fully rehabilitated, became a devoted father and a prominent businessman, but that one charge kept reminding him about itself. When Mr. Ali decided to apply for his citizenship for the first time, every member of Mr. Ali’s family was a US citizen, including his siblings, parents, wife, and children. His previous attorney did not fully interview him, and failed to obtain a certificate of disposition for the criminal charge before submitting Mr. Ali’s citizenship application. As a result, Mr. Ali had to experience a bitter disappointment, when his application was denied and he was even accused of misrepresenting information on his application form.
After we reviewed Mr. Ali’s file and spoke with him extensively regarding all aspects of his life, it became apparent that Mr. Ali had never intended to misrepresent any information, and that his conviction should not have been an issue for his citizenship, if the documents regarding rehabilitation were presented correctly. With this in mind, we submitted new application for Mr. Ali’s citizenship, together with proof of rehabilitation. As expected, the prior denial slowed down the process significantly. We had to stay in touch and follow with the USCIS constantly. However, ultimately, Mr. Ali was called for his citizenship Oath ceremony. Now, he will be able to travel in and out of the country without fear of being stopped at the border or being deported.
GREEN CARD THROUGH MARRIAGE GRANTED
A couple with different ethnical backgrounds came into my office recently, fearing that their adjustment of status interview will turn into a Stokes interview. They had read online that interracial couples have difficult time with immigration inteview, as their different ethnical background is considered to be a “red flag” for an immigration officer.
As we prepared for the interview, the number one thing they had an issue with was staying calm. Even though they have lived in the same household for quite some time, shared their finances, and friends, and extensively travelled together, the stories about harsh denials and Stoke interviews (it is the name of the procedure in New York when spouses are separated and extensively questioned, separately from each other for the purposes of assessment of a bona fide marriage) made them freeze and forget answers to the simplest questions.
When I asked them certain questions like a spouse’s cell phone number, they would start shaking because they could not answer. I told them that that it was ok not to know certain answers for questions that an Immigration Officer asks you. It is not uncommon that nowadays you would not know your spouse’s phone number, since we save the numbers in our phones and rarely use landlines to punch in the actual number.
Certain things, of course, a person must answer promptly, like spouse’s date of birth, place of work, and number of siblings. Submitting of supporting documents at the beginning of the interview will always be helpful as well. The most important factor, however, is for the couple to be confident and concentrated on the questions the officer is asking them.
Needless to say, even with the government shutdown in place, and a majority of the power and staff cut down to a minimum, the couple received their green card and walked out of the federal building smiling and ready to move on with their lives and put their immigration worries behind them.
VISA IS GRANTED!
A Middle Eastern business man was having trouble with his most recent US Business Visa. He had come to the US many times previously to speak to the branch of his company in the US and never had a problem. This time for whatever reason, USCIS decided that they were not going to grant him his US Business Visa. With only 2 months left before his company’s convention was to take place he hired our office to help assist him and expedite the process. After explaining his case and showing that he had in fact been to the US on numerous occasions and returned to his country without overstaying any of his previous visas, the US government granted his visa just in time for his speaking event!
AN HONORABLY DISCHARGED VETERAN GOT HIS GREEN CARD BACK!
An honorably discharged naval veteran came to our office a few months ago with a letter from the government stating that they were taking away his green card and wanted to deport him. He had said that he had been fighting to stay in the country for years as he was a permanent resident of the US with a criminal charge... When he came to our office he told us that he just wanted to go back to his home country and start over there, and that he had given up all hope of staying in the US even after serving the people of its country in 2 wars! As he sat in our office telling us this we decided that we were going to see if we could work up a little miracle for this man, it was the least we could do after all he protected this country and served it for well over the standard 4 year enrollment. When we spoke to the prosecutor’s office and explained that the criminal charges happened right after he had gotten discharged from military service, and that he was in fact a person of good moral character, contrary to what DHS thought previously, we got him his green card back!
CLIENT RELEASED AFTER LENGTHY DETENTION AND PERMITTED TO REUNITE WITH HIS FAMILY
Six months ago an orphaned boy came to America in search of asylum, with a few family members living in New York, he decided that he would try to make it to New York before applying, so that he would have a roof over his head.
Unfortunately when arriving at the border, and being questioned by US officials, and unable to articulate himself in English, he was sent to jail in Texas. His family distraught and unaware of their options hired an attorney in Texas to handle the boy’s case. After only one appearance and $4,000 later, the case was denied and the previous attorney would not file his notice of appearance on the appeal, meaning that the boy was now on his own, without any hope for his asylum in the US.
When his family contacted our office, we found that the boy being under 21 and having many family members in NY with legal status had a very credible Special Juvenile Immigration Status claim. However one problem persisted that was up to the judge’s discretion. Special Juvenile Immigration Status can only be filed in the state in which the applicant resides, and the parents or guardians must reside in the state as well. We needed to file a Motion to Change Venue, allowing the case to be heard in New York instead of Texas and ask the judge to set a bail bond, which previously was never asked for. After explaining to the judge that the boy was an orphan and his grandparents who live in New York would be filing for his adoption were unable to move to Texas, the judge granted our motion to change venue and even set the immigration bond to the minimum, allowing the boy to come home to his family.
SUCCESSFUL HARDSHIP WAIVER APPLICATION
Many applicants are scared of the hardship waivers as they are afraid that in case of the denial they will have to leave the country and be barred from coming back to the U.S. That is why before filing they need to meet with an attorney: somebody who is familiar with the case law and who can give an estimate of success and suggest the best ways of developing the arguments. There is no such a thing as a 100% guarantee, but there is good preparation and willingness to overcome obstacles.
Mrs. and Mr. Reyes (their real names changed) called my office to inquire what form they need to file for a waiver and at what point Mrs. Reyes would need to leave the country. After a short conversation we agreed that they would come to my office for a consultation. During the consultation it appeared that Mrs. Reyes qualified for a waiver that, if granted, allows her to adjust status without having to leave the country. Further, we discovered that the couple had two minor children born in the U.S. Also, Mrs. Reyes for years was assisting Mr. Reyes to look after his ill parents, and Mr. Reyes himself was suffering from an injury received in a car accident. Based on these facts, and additional hardships that we defined during the interview, I estimated that the couple had a good chance for the waiver to be granted, and Mrs. and Mr. Reyes agreed to file the necessary paperwork.
It was not an easy decision because essentially, the non-citizen had to disclose its “illegal” existence in the U.S. and assume the risk of ultimately being deported and separated with the family members.
We submitted the whole package at once. Some attorneys advocate for submission of the I-601 during the interview, but we chose a different approach, hoping that our preparation will pay off and the decision will be expedited because often waiver applications are taking years to be finalized and unnecessary delays just add stress to clients. Of course, we had to go through necessary steps, including the interview, but in the end, the Reyes family was able to stay united, and now they no longer need to be afraid of lengthy separation and despair. Mrs. Reyes is getting ready to visit her family overseas who she has not seen for 13 years…
ASYLUM CLAIM GRANTED
Mr. Alexy applied for asylum using services of one of the “paralegals” and his asylum claim got denied after the interview. He was looking for a lawyer to represent him in court, and came to our office. After reviewing his documents, it became apparent that the “paralegal” omitted one of the grounds of asylum claim: membership in a particular social group; failed to advise Mr. Alexy to use an expert; failed to submit a thorough affidavit in support of his claim, and advised to cause delays in his case which resulted in Mr. Alexy’s inability to receive employment authorization.
Of course, Mr. Alexy came to the office two days before his Master Hearing leaving us no time to prepare new submission. On the day of the hearing, we appeared in court and asked for a three months extension of time to be able to cure the damage done. We were lucky that the court granted it, and did not adjourn the case for a year. During the three months period we amended Mr. Alexy’s application, researched and gathered supplemental documents, and submitted new affidavit explaining the need for the amendments. We also were able to find a highly qualified expert.
During the next Master hearing we submitted new application and went over the pleadings with the court. Mr. Alexy received his employment authorization shortly, and we started preparing for the Individual hearing. The Individual hearing was adjourned by the court several times due to the busy calendar and incident weather. Finally, during the first minutes of the hearing, the Court confronted Mr. Alexy with the facts submitted by the “paralegal” and we had to explain the misguidance and wrong advice Mr. Alexy was relying on at that time. In addition to good preparation, we had a great judge who actually listened to the applicant, and understood the traps newly arriving immigrants get into when they hire “paralegals” and “notario-s”. However, the biggest challenge was ahead of us: even though the judge indicated he was inclined to grant asylum, the judge scheduled another individual hearing just to render the decision. Right before the decision, the judge’s case load was transferred to another judge, who did not hear the case and scheduled the case for …another Individual hearing… By then my client was in the proceedings for four years… He was under a lot of pressure financially and emotionally, he was separated from his family for years. We had to find a faster solution than another four years in court. I could not put him through the stress of a new trial. We petitioned to the new judge explaining in detail that the first judge indicated the asylum was warranted, citied relevant part of proceedings, and case history. The government did not object, and the new judge granted relief within minutes. I strongly believe that loyalty to your client contributes to the results.
CRIMINAL CONVICTION WILL NOT BE ON THE WAY
I received a call from Mr. Flower (not a real name of course) stating that his brother who is outside the United States needs help. The brother visited the US three summers ago and was charged with a misdemeanor. He left the country before the charge was resolved and as a result had an outstanding warrant which precluded him from applying for a visa to come back to the US (the brother wanted to come back to the US).
It is a well-known fact that in a criminal court, defendant must appear in person for any resolution of the case. Now, our defendant physically cannot come into the country, because at a minimum the consulate would not issue him a visa, and even if the consulate did so, the person would be apprehended at the border due to the warrant.
So, what did we do? First, we contacted the district attorney’s office and located the case. It took some time to put the case back on the active calendar. Then, the most important part: we had to convince the court and the prosecutor to adjudicate the case in defendant’s absence through duly executed affidavits with proper authentication. Luckily for brother, his case was dismissed and now he can apply for a visa and come to the US. But unresolved criminal charges, if serious enough, can be a huge problem. My advice would be not to leave the country before their resolution.
Appeal Of Decision On I-601 Fraud Waiver Is Granted
Mr. Nelson and his wife requested an emergency consultation with my office: their time to file an appeal with the USCIS on Mr. Nelson’s I-601 fraud waiver application was running out and their then lawyer did not return their phone calls. I agreed to meet with them the same day. It turned out that Mr. Nelson entered the country more than 25 years ago using someone else’s identity. He married Mrs. Nelson several years ago. The couple filed papers for adjustment of status and I-601 “fraud waiver.” However, subsequently, they received a decision on I-601 waiver: it was denied. From the first minutes of our conversation, it became apparent that the prior lawyer overlooked a very important fact of the Nelsons’ family life and their I-601 application: for the past two years Mrs. Nelson was taking care of her disabled brother who is suffering from chronic disease and without the help of Mr. Nelson, she will not be able to provide care for the brother, earn a living, put two children through college, and pay off family’s credit card debt. We collected a new package of documents, statements from family and friends, medical records, credit card statements, letters from church, and other supporting materials. This time the immigration authorities agreed that Mrs. Nelson will experience an extreme hardship in case of Mr. Nelson’s removal and granted our request for the waiver.
ADVANCE PAROLE GRANTED
We are glad to announce our recent success in securing ad advance parole for an El Salvadorian citizen. Mr. Costa (we changed the real name) was granted a TPS status in the United States many years ago. However, this past June he had to urgently travel to El Salvador to care for his sick relative. He took his 7 years old son, a US citizen, with him. What he failed to realize when leaving the country, is that his advance parole document had expired.
The relative felt better, and Mr. Costa was ready to go back to the United States, especially because his little son was supposed to start new school year. However, without an Advance Parole, he could not travel. Mr. Costa hired one attorney who filed a letter request with a USCIS field office back in early September. Then, he hired another attorney who filed for I-131 for him, but failed to explain the urgency of the situation.
Finally his family came to my office. Immediately we contacted Mr. Costa’s son’s school and requested a letter explaining that the boy will lose the school place if he is not back in the US shortly. We also contacted local church where Mr. Costa used to go and asked for letters of support. We contacted all members of his family who were willing to vouch for him and provide letters of support. Within hours we submitted our request to expedite Mr. Costa’s advance parole with National Benefit Center, local Service Center, El Salvadorian field Office, US Embassy in El Salvador, and requested assistance from the AILA.
Upon receipt of our request, the Local field Office immediately decided to help Mr. Costa and scheduled an expedited appointment for his biometrics and a week later Mr. Costa was able to receive his document and now he is back in the United States with his family!
Where there is a Will, there is a Way!
CONSULATE APPROVED A NON IMMIGRANT VISA FOR A SON OF A PERMANENT RESIDENT AFTER PRIOR DENIAL
The mother and sister of the 23 years old Dmitrii (the real name is changed) came to my office asking to help them to bring Dmitrii to the US for a family event.
After Dmitrii’s sister got married to a US citizen, she was able to sponsor Dmitrii’s and her mom to the US, but because he was over 21, he could not qualify for a fast track immigrant visa, and was left in his home country. The family was devastated, they tried to obtain B-1 visa for Dimitrii a year before but the application was denied.
After the sister and mother came to my office, we reviewed the situation and were able to collect enough evidence of Dmitrii’s ties with his home country so that the consul issued favorable decision on his new visa application. We presented proof of Dmitrii’s college attendance and classes; part time job contract; his fiancé’s statement; letters of recommendation from local religious organizations; as well as titles to his apartment and a car.
ASYLUM APPLICANT RECEIVED EMPLOYMENT AUTHORIZATION AFTER MOTION TO RESTART THE CLOCK
Mr. Samir (we changed his name) contacted my office after his application for EAD was denied and he was informed that the clock on his case was stopped. By that time his application for asylum was pending over nine months, but he was referred to court by an Asylum officer before the 180 days elapsed on his case.
Mr. Samir’s then representative made the first Master calendar appearance, asked for an adjournment and disappeared. This caused the clock for EAD to stop.
Realizing, that further delays on Mr. Samir’s part will prevent him from obtaining the work authorization that he desperately needed to support his family, my office worked around the clock to prepare and submit all the documents at the next court appearance.
On the date of the Master hearing, we appeared in Immigration court and submitted amended Asylum application with supplemental materials. We inquired if the court would start the clock, and the Immigration Judge advertised to “check later.” Two days after the case was placed on Individual calendar, and there were no longer delays “caused by the applicant” we checked the automatic system, and the clock was still stopped.
Ms. Shautsova submitted a motion to the IJ asking to restart the clock. Right after the motion was filed, she contacted IJ’s secretary to make sure the IJ had a chance to review the motion. The same day, the clock was restarted and Mr. Samir received his EAD shortly.
CANCELLATION OF REMOVAL APPLICANT WAS CLEARED OF INADMISSIBILITY CHARGE
Ms. Zhang (not her real name of course) was placed in removal proceedings and she was charged and convicted of the criminal possession of the sufficient amount of controlled substance. Because by the time Ms. Zhang was served with Notice to Appear, she was a permanent resident for more than five years, and continuously resided in the US for seven years. She has left the country on one occasion, and it was long before alleged criminal activity.
Hence, Ms. Zhang was eligible and filed for cancellation of removal for certain permanent residence. (note: her alleged crime did not qualify as an aggravated felony.)
Initially, the government filed for a removal of Ms. Zhang under 237(a)(2)(B)(i) as being deportable as a permanent resident who was convicted of a crime involved a controlled substance. Half way through the hearings, the government decided to amend its notice to appear to add a new charge of inadmissibility under 212(a)(2)(C) “any alien who the consular officer or the Attorney General knows or has reason to believe is or has been an illicit trafficker in any controlled substance or in any listed chemical (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 802)), or is or has been a knowing aider, abettor, assister, conspirator, or colluder with others in the illicit trafficking in any such controlled or listed substance or chemical.”
Ms. Shautsova, in her motion in opposition argued that the stated ground of inadmissibility was not applicable to Ms. Zhang case because she was not a person seeking admission pursuant to INA 101(a)(13)(C). Further, none of the grounds under the INA 101(a)(13)(C) were applicable to Ms. Zhang. Ms. Zhang has not left the country after her arrest, and Ms. Zhang was not applying for adjustment of status.
The Court agreed with Ms. Shautsova’s arguments, and the government withdrew its charge.
Thereafter, Ms. Zhang successfully continued with her application for cancellation of removal.
SUCCESSFUL SETTLEMENT OF AN EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION CLAIM
A 23 years old Karim (the real name was changed) came to our office after he was fired from his job for displaying a religious sign. He worked at a major department store. He recently became more religious than he previously was, and decided to follow the rules of his confession.
The store manager was unfamiliar with the Title VII laws, failed to follow the department store’s regulations and fired my client because he didn’t like his new appearance.
We immediately filed a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights, and attempted to negotiate the dispute with the employer. Employer refused, arguing that my client resigned rather than was fired. Subsequently, the employer provided documents signed by my client stating that he was resigning.
What the employer failed to realize is that my client had an alternative explanation of the signature on the resignation document, along with evidence that the resignation document did not reflect the true reason for my client’s termination.
After the case was filed in Federal Court, and went through discovery process, the parties agreed to employ mediator services, and after through preparation of mediation briefs were able to come to a mutually acceptable resolution. Even though it took us almost three years, we did not give up and were able to achieve for our client acceptable result.
SUCCESSFUL ADJUSTMENT OF STATUS AFTER PRIOR DENIAL
Alex and Diana (the real names were changed) called my office to check if I could help them with filing of a family petition and adjusting Diana’s status. We scheduled a consultation, and they brought their documents, and files.
Alex was a US citizen and Diana was from Brazil, they recently got married. Diana first came to the US in 2001, overstayed her B1 visa, and recently was denied an adjustment of status application. Her US citizen father filed I-130 for her many years ago, and her family preference category became current. Following advice of some notary, she believed she could adjust even though she failed to maintain the lawful status. However, because Diana failed to maintain her lawful status in the US, and she was over 21 years old, she could not adjust in the US. In addition, she accumulated significant amount of unlawful presence and had she left the country, she would have become barred from returning back for 10 years.
We decided to act fast. Before Diana was served with Notice to Appear, we filed I-130 and I-485 with supporting documents. Subsequently, we appeared for an interview, and although Diana was questioned regarding the first I-130 filed by her father, the officer believed that couple entered into a bona fide marriage, and granted her adjustment of status application. It must be noted, that if Diana was served with Notice to Appear, it would be still possible to adjust her status, but the burden of proof for a bona fide marriage would be much higher.