March 2011 Immigration Newsletter
Welcome to the March edition of Gafner Law Firm’s Monthly Immigration Newsletter. This month’s newsletter provides firm updates, recent immigration news, legislative updates, and recent developments in immigration law.
Readers are welcome to contact Gafner Law Firm if they have questions about the newsletter, or if they would like to schedule a telephone or office consultation. Please contact the firm by calling 646.571.8472, or through its website contact page.
Table of Contents
- Redesigned Naturalization Website Launched – Helping Take the Worry Out of the Naturalization Process
- USCIS Causes Confusion for Same-Sex Marriage Family Immigration Petitions
- Immigration Court Issues K-1 Visa Decision Concerning Adjusting Status After End of Marriage
- H-1B Season Begins Anew on April 1st
- Change Of Address Form Changes Address
- What is Good Moral Character In the Naturalization Process?
- USCIS Offers Naturalization Services To Soldiers Stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan
- Startup Visa Reintroduced Into Congress
Gafner Law Firm is proud to announce that it has redesigned its naturalization and citizenship website, AmericanCitizenshipLawyer.com. The new website is meant to encourage lawful permanent residents to take the voluntary step of becoming a U.S. citizen. Statistics show that a vast majority of eligible lawful permanent residents do not pursue the naturalization process. AmericanCitizenshipLawyer.com seeks to help change that trend.
If you are a lawful permanent resident and have been for five years (three if married to a U.S. citizen), please visit the site and contact Gafner Law Firm to begin the process.
During the last month (and especially during the last week) the immigration agency has caused mass confusion about how it is adjudicating same-sex marriage immigration petitions.
In February President Obama announced that his administration would no longer enforce the DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act). Further, the immigration agency quietly announced that immigration benefits would be granted to same sex partners of U.S. diplomats stationed in the United States.
Late last week, it became known that a couple of local immigration centers were accepting (but not approving) same sex marriage visa petitions. The two centers were Baltimore and Washington, DC.
Then, this week, a USCIS spokesperson announced that USCIS Headquarters had told all local immigration centers, including the New York Immigration Center, to hold same sex marriage petitions until further notice.
This announcement gave raise to great praise and hope. Unfortunately, that hope was short-lived. The USCIS quickly clarified (or reversed?) its position and stated that it would continue to enforce DOMA.
Thus, until further notice, same-sex married couples must continue to wait for a permanent change in policy.
In a unique case, the Board of Immigration Appeal (BIA) ruled that a K-1 beneficiary could adjust status after the marriage to the K-1 petitioner ended.
The case, Matter of Sesay, is unique because the couple had married within 90 days of entering the United States, but had had their adjustment of status petition denied because it had not been filed within two years of their marriage.
The BIA determined that the K-1 visa holder could adjust status because the couple’s original petition was denied for a reason not based on law.
The facts of the case are very specific, and K-1 visa holders should not use the case as an example to follow. If you have a question about your K-1 visa case, please contact Gafner Law Firm
Although it doesn’t currently have the same meaning as it once did, the H-1B season begins anew on April 1st. Each year the U.S. government allows a total of 65,000 H-1B visas to be available. April 1st is the first day when petitioners can apply for the 2012 H-1B visa quota.
The beginning of the H-1B season is not as important this year as in past years because the quota is not likely to be reached for many months. Formerly, the quota was reached within a day or two of the April 1st start date.
As the economy improves, the April 1st start date may begin to gain more importance again.
The USCIS’s change of address form’s address has changed. The new address is:
Harrisonburg File Storage Facility
1344 Pleasants Drive
Harrisonburg, VA 22801
Citizenship & Naturalization
A key factor in the naturalization process is having “good moral character.” But, what is good moral character? The USCIS has wide discretion in determining a person’s good moral character.
However, there are certain set factors that must be applied. If you are contemplating filing for naturalization, please contact a naturalization lawyer to ensure your eligibility. The follow demonstrates how confusing the process can get.
Normally, a person’s good moral character during the last five years is reviewed by the immigration agency. If the applicant is a spouse of U.S. citizens, the immigration agency looks at the past three years.
In certain circumstances, the USCIS looks at acts occurring outside the three or five year time frame.
It is important to note, good moral character must be maintained until someone has taken the oath of allegiance to the United States.
3/5 Year Mandatory Bars to Naturalization
Certain actions during the last 3 or 5 years are mandatory bars to naturalization. These include:
- Commission of a crime involving moral turpitude.
- Conviction of multiple crimes resulting in incarceration of five or more years.
- Violation of a controlled substance law.
- Giving false testimony for immigration benefits
- being a “habitual drunkard.”
Discretionary Good Moral Character Issues
Certain actions during the 3 or 5 year period of review can lead to a denial of good moral character, but are left to the discretion of the immigration agency. These acts include:
- Failing to support dependents.
- Failing to comply with child support orders
- Committing adultery that is “tending to destroy an existing marriage.”
- Failing to register for Selective Service (if
Permanent Bars To Naturalization
Some acts, no matter when committed, make an individual permanently barred from naturalization. These include murder and aggregated felonies (with convictions after 1990), among others.
Consult a Naturalization Lawyer
It is always best to consult a naturalization lawyer before applying for naturalization. A naturalization application can quickly turn into a denial and even deportation from the United States.
To contact a New York City naturalization lawyer, contact Gafner Law Firm.
The USCIS has performed naturalization ceremonies for service members in Afghanistan and Iraq. Until recently, it was required that a naturalization ceremony be held in the United States. However, the law was changed to allow for service members serving overseas to obtain naturalization.
In Afghanistan, 98 service members were naturalized. In Iraq, 53 service members were naturalized.
If you are a current service person, or a former service member, please contact a naturalization lawyer to learn how you can become a U.S. citizen. As a former service member, you are entitled to certain advantages compared to other naturalization applicants.
Congress has reintroduced the Startup Visa. First introduced in 2010, the Startup visa required reintroduction following the new Congress convening in January. Although Congress has reintroduced the legislation, it is unknown whether it will advance forward. As a whole, Congress does not appear keen on advancing any immigration legislation in the near future.
The Startup Visa would use existing immigrant visas from the EB-5 Visa program (for Immigrant Investors), and would require applicants to:
- Show an initial investment of at least $100,000 by a qualified investor; create 5 or more new full-time jobs (determined two years after the visa is issued), and show revenue or further capital investment of at least $500,000 (also within first 2 years); OR
- Hold an unexpired H-1B visa or have a graduate level degree in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) or other relevant field from a U.S. university; demonstrate a certain level of income or assets; OR
- Have a controlling interest in a foreign company generating at least $100,000 in U.S. sales during prior year; have activities requiring at least 3 new full-time jobs within 2 years; and raise $100,000 in further capital investment or revenue within 2 years.
If you are an entrepreneur seeking to start a business in the United States, please contact an immigration lawyer to learn what options are available to you.
Immigration In The News
Census Reveals Impact of Immigration – Philadelphia Inquirer
US Immigration Judge Suspends Deportation of Same-Sex Spouse – Voice of America
Federal Officials Send 4-year-old U.S. Citizen Back To Guatemala Without Parents – Huffington Report
Recent Immigration Insight Blog Posts
Immigration Insight is the firm’s immigration blog. The following is a list of the blog posts from the past month.
- Immigration Agency Naturalizes 98 Armed Forces Service Members in Afghanistan
- Immigration Benefits for Same Sex Couples?
- Naturalization Ceremony In Iraq for 53 Service Members
- How To Request Expedited USCIS Immigration Processing
- USCIS Proposes H-1B Visa Lottery
- New Filing Address For Change of Address
- Immigration Agency Offers Relief To Japanese
- Immigration Benefits Available For Same Sex Couple Diplomats
- High School Valedictorian, Would-be NASA Scientist Faces Deportation
- USCIS Changes H-1B Cap Exemptions Policy Based On Relations and Affiliations
- Immigration Court Allows K-1 Visa Holder to Adjust Status After Marriage Ends
- DHS Announces Ability to Self-Check With E-verify
- Startup Visa Reintroduced Into Congress
- New York City Immigration Office Accepting Same-Sex Marriage Immigration Petitions