Consular Processing

October 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

According to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) , there are two major paths for one to permanent resident status (green card). A persons who is the beneficiary of an approved immigrant petition and has an immigrant visa number available may apply at a US Consulate in his/her home country for an immigrant visa to come to the US and be admitted as a permanent resident. This process is generally known as Consular processing.

Another process is adjustment of status through which an eligible person, who is already present in the US can apply for permanent resident status without having to return to his/her home country for further processing.

Steps for Consular Processing

Firstly, you have to determine if you fit into a particular immigrant category. In most cases, you will become eligible for a green card through a petition filed on your behalf by a family member or a US employer. There are others who become green card holders by getting refugee or asylum status, or through a number of other special provisions provided in the INA.

Once you determine the category, you will need to have an immigrant petition filed on your behalf, in most cases.

  • Family Based

Under this category, a US citizen or permanent resident relative should file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, for you.

  • Employment Based

This category quite often require the US employer to file Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker, for you. If you want to invest a significant amount of capital into a business venture in the US, you can file Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur” by yourself. There are certain other Special Classes of Immigrants and humanitarian programs as well

Although immigrant petitions are filed with USCIS, at times, an I-130 petition can be filed for an immediate relative with a US Consulate abroad, subject to certain conditions.

If the petition is denied, USCIS will mention the reasons for the denial and will notify you about your right to appeal. If the petition is approved and if you are the beneficiary of the petition and living abroad or living in the US, but will apply for your immigrant visa abroad, USCIS will send the approved petition to the National Visa Center and the petition will be there until an immigrant visa number is available.

The National Visa Center will notify the petitioner and beneficiary when the visa petition is received and then again when an immigrant visa number is likely to become available. They will also inform when they have to submit immigrant visa processing fees and other information about the supporting documentation.

Once a visa is available or a beneficiary’s priority date becomes current, the consular office will schedule an interview for the applicant. The consular office will then decide if the beneficiary is eligible for a visa. If the process goes on smoothly, you will be granted a visa. The consular officer will give you a packet of information, referred as a “Visa Packet.”. Make sure you do not open this packet.

Once you arrive in the US, you have to hand over the visa packet to the Customs and Border Protection officer at the port of entry. You will then be inspected by a Customs and Border Protection officer and only if they find you admissible, you will be admitted as a permanent resident of the US. As a permanent resident , you can live and work in the US permanently. Your green card will be mailed to you.

The DV-2014 Lottery Program closes on 3rd November

October 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

green card lotteryRegistrations for the DV-2014 Program will close on November 3, 2012 at 12:00 noon, Eastern Daylight Time (EDT). Through this annually program, many immigrants get a chance to get a green card that will give legal residence status in the US.

The DV lottery program provides 50,000 green cards to individuals who are selected randomly by a computer. To qualify, individuals are required to satisfy simple eligibility requirements. The first eligibility requirement is that the individual has to be from a qualifying country as not all countries qualify for this program. The eligibility country normally is the country of birth and is not about where you live. The second requirement is that the individual should have at least a high school education or equivalent.

It does not mean that you will not qualify if you are not from a qualifying country. In this case you will be able to apply if your spouse is from a country that is eligible. If you are applying through your spouse’s eligibility, both you and your spouse have to enter the US together if you are selected. All the children below the age of 21 whose details were entered in your application can come with you to the US. You also have another option where you can qualify based in either of your parents’ country of birth. But neither of your parents should have been a resident of an ineligible country when you were born.

Eligible individuals should submit only one entry. It is important to remember that you will be disqualified if you submit more than one application. But there is an exception to this as a husband and wife can each submit one application if each meet the eligibility requirements.

The Kentucky Consular Center will assign unique numbers to the applications received. From these applications, a computer will randomly select for each geographic region. A significant point to mention is that all the applications stand the same chance of getting selected. Note that the applications are accepted only through online and while submitting, applicants will get a confirmation number. They can check the results only with this confirmation number. So it is better to keep the number safe. Another important point to remember is that the Kentucky Consular Center will not send letters to the winners or email them. The online entrant check is the only way to check the results. If you receive any email or mail stating that you have won the lottery, just ignore those mails. Once selected, you will be required to pay all diversity and immigrant visa fees at the US embassy or Consulate during the time of visa application.

Benefits of getting a green card

As a green card holder, you can enjoy many privileges. You have the right to apply for government-sponsored financial aid for education and pay less tuition for university and college. You are allowed to work in any company located in US territory regardless of job function, hours/week, etc. except for a few companies that hire only Americans. Employer sponsorship is also not needed. There are certain jobs that need security clearance that only green card holders and US citizens can get. So it is well understood that a green card provides more job opportunities.

You can also start own business and create your own corporation. You will also get Social Security benefits when you retire but this is subject to some conditions. Additionally, you can sponsor your spouse and unmarried minor children (below 21) for them to become permanent residents. Not to forget having access to security clearances, becoming eligible for government grants and exempt from export restrictions. A few years later, you will be eligible to apply for US citizenship.

Role Of Women in US Immigration

October 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

Women have contributed a significant percentage to the US immigration numbers. During 2010, they were the majority numbering up to 55 percent of the total getting a green card. Dividing it further, out of this 55 percentage, 60 percentage were married, while the other 40 comprised of singles, widows, or divorcees. Speaking about living in families, foreign nationals live in families at a greater rate when compared with native born Americans. New America Media conducted a research in 2009 and found out that immigrant women encourage naturalization in their families. When surveyed, 84 percent of the women wished to become US citizens. The survey also brought to light that only 13 percent of immigrant women work as professionals in the US. This is significant as 32 percent of them had previously worked in their home country. They are better is business as well as they outnumber the US-born women. In 2010, foreign national women were 40 percent of all immigrant business owners and are favored to own their own business more than US-born women.

Coming to the refugee category, women were 47 percent and slightly higher at 53 percent of people who were naturalized. What adds significance to these findings is that during the 1960s, immigrant men had outnumbered immigrant women. The Immigration and Nationality Act when passed in 1965, opened the doors and more women started to come to the US as the INA gave more preference to family-based admissions. As a result the number of women immigrants overtook the men in the 1970s. 2010 statistics put the ratio for immigrant men and women coming to the US at 96:100.

On the other hand, there is a significant increase in the number of deportations of undocumented immigrants. This leads to separation of children from their parents. The Applied Research Center conducted a research in 2011 and reported that more than 5,000 children live in foster care and their parents had been detained or deported from the US. This number will rise and the report further estimates that another 15,000 children will be in foster care in the next five years due to immigration enforcement.

Drawing down to the negative side, immigrant women are more prone to abuse at work and at home. Domestic Workers United conducted a study and found out that 33 percent of domestic workers in New York are subjected to some form of physical or verbal abuse. An important reason for this is either the person’s race or immigration status. Though one understands that domestic abuse affects both immigrant and US-born women, the former suffer from certain vulnerabilities. It is most often from abusive partners who take advantage of the woman’s immigration status to keep them from leaving an abusive marriage. In addition, they are also vulnerable to Human trafficking. U.S. Department of Justice statistics indicate that around 50,000 people are trafficked into the US every year. Though 5000 “T” visas are available to help free immigrant women who are forced into other things, the hard truth is that very less visas are issued in this category. The year 2010 saw only 447 T Visas approved.

Temporary Protected Status

September 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

Next week, it is expected that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will publish a notice in the Federal Register extending Haiti’s Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

The Federal Register notice will give guidance on:

  • the eligibility requirement for TPS;
  • Re-registering process if you have TPS;
  • date to file TPS applications;
  • Requesting an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) – the process
  • Six-month extension of current EADs;
  • Fees and fee waiver procedures and
  • other additional information.

You will not be eligible if you have not continuously resided in the US since Jan. 12, 2011.

USCIS also announced a new initiative to provide the Los Angeles Public Library’s 73 locations with Naturalization resources and training for the library staff.

These are some of the highlights of this new initiative:

  • Training for library staff on the citizenship process and the USCIS resources available
  • Creating different space in each library as ‘citizenship corners,’ which will have the citizenship material and resources;
  • Providing a list of non-profit groups providing citizenship assistance in the local community and
  • Giving access to library community rooms for citizenship and English language classes.

Los Angeles has immigrants from more than 140 countries who speak 224 languages. California has nearly 3.4 million permanent residents, 2.5 million of those are estimated to qualify to apply for naturalization. USCIS and the City of Los Angeles initially came into a partnership when they signed a Letter of Agreement for a two-year project. It was scheduled to end in January 2012, but the two parties agreed to renew it for an additional year in April 2012.

Another development in the USCIS front is ‘E-Verify Listens, an online forum where users can submit and suggest ideas, as well as vote for their favorites. The next six months will see blog posts about some of the great ideas and conversations taking place on E-Verify Listens. E-Verify is a free, web-based service that allows employers to confirm the employment eligibility of new employees quickly.

Green Cards For Relatives

September 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

Many foreign nationals become permanent residents of the United States because their immediate relatives who are US citizens or permanent residents (green card) holders petition them. One who helps a relative in becoming a US permanent resident is called the Petitioner and the one who seeks to become a resident is called the Beneficiary.

If you are a US Citizen, you are allowed to file the petition for your

  • spouse or unmarried child below 21 years of age.
  • unmarried child above the age of 21 or your married child of any age.
  • Siblings, but you should be at least 21 years old.
  • Parent. Even here you should be at least 21 years old.

If you are a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) you are allowed to petition for your

  • spouse.
  • unmarried child.

In a given year, if there are more eligible applicants than the number of available visas, the category will be become “oversubscribed”. Visas will be issued in the order they were received until the quota is reached. The priority date is the date the petition was filed. Visas will be issued only when the priority date is reached. For example: if you are filing under a category that has a limitation of 50,000 visas per year, and this year there were 100,000 visa applications under that category, then the first eligible 50,000 applicants will be issued visas and the remaining 50,000 will be put on a waiting list for the next year which simply means years of waiting periods for certain oversubscribed visa categories.

If you wish to bring your immediate relatives into the US, you have to file a petition with the USCIS. You have to be a born or a naturalized US citizen or a lawful permanent resident. By filing the I-130 petition on behalf of your relative, you are requesting the USCIS to acknowledge the relationship and determine in favor of granting the petition.

STEPS INVOLVED

  1. Establish the relationship and the matching visa preference classification.
  2. File form I-130 – Petition for Alien Relative.
  3. Have the necessary supporting documents that include proof of your status and proof of beneficiary relationship to you.
  4. Include the filing fee to the I-130 petition.

Remember, you should have two copies of Form G-325A, Biographic Information. You and your spouse will each fill one of the Biographic Information Forms. The form will have information about your parents, place of residence, employers of both husband and wife during the last five years, and previous foreign residences (if any) . You and the beneficiary must sign and date the form before submission.

Form I-864

Form I-864 is generally used as a written obligation from you, the US sponsor to support the alien under the Social Security Act and the Food Stamp Act. You have to read the instructions accompanying form I-864 carefully and ensure that you are aware of the nature of the affirmation that you are making. Take your affirmation on this affidavit seriously.

You need not submit Form I-864 if the intending immigrant can show EITHER that he/she has already worked, or can be credited with, 40 qualifying quarters as defined in title II of the SSA (OR) that he/she is the child of a citizen and that he/she, if admitted for permanent residence on or after February 27, 2001, would automatically acquire citizenship under Section 320 of the INA, as amended by the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.

USCIS Announces Citizenship and Integration Grant Program Recipients

September 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

USCIS recently announced the award of approximately $5 million in grants that was aimed to promote immigrant civic integration and prepare Lawful permanent residents (green card holders) for citizenship. Through this program, 31 immigrant-serving organizations from 21 states and the District of Columbia will receive federal funding to support preparation of citizenship services for permanent residents for a two year period till September 2014.

Significantly, this is the fourth year USCIS has awarded competitive grant funding to immigrant-serving organizations to support preparing for the citizenship process. The first three years of the program saw a total of $18.3 million awarded through 111 grants to immigrant-serving organizations. Till date, approximately 38,000 permanent residents in 30 states and the District of Columbia have benefited from the program.

USCIS expects another 26,000 permanent residents to receive citizenship preparation services by September 2014. Grant recipients of this year’s program will offer citizenship instruction to prepare permanent residents for the civics and English sections of the naturalization test. They will also offer citizenship application services within the scope of the authorized practice of immigration law. The period of performance for the grants is two years.
Remember that the grant recipients are public or private nonprofit organizations with recent experience in providing citizenship instruction and application services to qualifying persons. Public school systems, public libraries, community and faith-based groups, adult education organizations, and literacy organizations are such organizations. These organizations are geographically diverse and represent both traditional immigrant destinations and new immigrant gateways across 21 states and the District of Columbia. They plan to provide citizenship instruction and naturalization application services to approximately 10,000 permanent residents from 50 countries. Grant recipients represent:

  • Eight of the top ten states in the US with the largest permanent resident populations who are now eligible to apply for citizenship (California, New York, Texas, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Washington and Virginia)
  • Nine of the top ten states with the largest growth in the terms of permanent residents during the last ten years (California, New York, Florida, Texas, Illinois, Massachusetts, Virginia, Georgia and Maryland)
  • Seventeen of the top twenty states with the largest numbers of naturalizations yearly (California, New York, Florida, Texas, Illinois, Massachusetts, Virginia, Maryland, Washington, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina, Minnesota, Ohio, Connecticut and Colorado); and
  • Eleven of the top fifteen metropolitan areas with the highest number of new permanent residents during the last ten years (New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Washington DC, Chicago, Houston, Boston, Atlanta, Philadelphia, San Jose and Seattle)

More than 150 eligible applications were reviewed by USCIS. A three-member team composed of internal USCIS reviewers evaluated those proposals. Applications were scored numerically using published evaluation criteria and rank ordered. A second USCIS internal review panel determined the finalists based on the rank order and published strategic program priorities.

Flights Suspended for Illegal Immigrants

September 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

The US government stopped flights home for Mexicans who were caught entering the US illegally, a move that would save a lot of money. The last seven years saw a whopping $100 million taxpayers money going into it. From 2004, more than 125,000 passengers were flown into Mexico for free. There was a mixed response to this move with the Mexican government officials and migrants initially against it, but was gradually accepted as another step to help people get back.

With Border Patrol arrests coming down and proof that more people may be heading south of the border than north coming out, officials found it difficult to fill the planes and found the costs increasingly difficult to substantiate. Flights were cut to once from twice daily last year. This year, there haven’t been any. To keep the flights going, there was a proposal to mix Mexicans who commit crimes while living in the US. This did not go well with the Mexican government who did not like the idea of seating hardened criminals next to families, elderly and the frail who recently crossed the border. Though it is expected the flight operation will resume, it will for sure not be this year.

U.S. Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Mexico Interior Secretary Alejandro Poire said in February that they proposed to launch a pilot program starting April 1 to fly migrants arrested while living in the US into Mexico. It was because of complaints from Mexican border cities that too many deportees were being dumped on their streets and further contribute to crime and unemployment. It has to be mentioned that the Mexican Interior Repatriation Program flights carried 125,164 passengers at a cost of $90.6 million starting 2004, or an average of $724 each, according to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The lowest operation was seen in 2009 where the flights ran as few as 38 days and the highest was in 2010 with as many as 120 days in 2010, when a record 23,384 passengers were flown. In the previous year, there were 8,893 passengers flown at a cost of $5 million, at an average of $562 each. The Border Patrol enforcement’s new strategy, introduced in Tucson last year and later extended to the entire border, believes on tougher punishments that were rolled out recently. One calls for jail for up to six months and another one transports migrants to border cities deep to be deported there.