The Dream Act

June 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

The purpose of the Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) is to give an opportunity to undocumented immigrant students who have been living in the US since they were young.

You should meet the following requirements one would need in order to qualify under the DREAM Act.

  • You should have entered the US before the age of 16.
  • You should have been present in the US for at least five consecutive years before the enactment of the bill
  • You should have graduated from a US high school, or have obtained a GED, or have been accepted into an institution of higher education.
  • You should be between 12 and 35 old at the time of application
  • You should have good moral character

If you do not fulfill the above mentioned initial requirements, you are not eligible to apply. You will be be disqualified and stripped of the Conditional Permanent Residency if you have left the US for long periods of time, not completed the two years of college or military service in the allotted six years, have become a public charge or you received a dishonorable discharge from the military.

If you satisfy all the conditions at the end of the 6-year conditional period, you will be granted permanent residency, which eventually will allow you to qualify for American citizenship.

If you are disqualified by committing one or more of the situations mentioned above, you will return to the previous level of status you had prior to receiving conditional permanent residency. In most cases it would mean returning to undocumented status and would again be subject to deportation.

If you have not graduated high school, obtained a GED or have not been accepted into college, you can stay in the US and not be deported if you are enrolled full-time in primary or secondary school and are 12 years of age or older. Once you have completed high school or obtained a GED, you will then qualify to apply for Conditional Permanent Residency.

Good moral character broadly can be characterized as being a law-abiding resident of the US.  Some students may have committed minor crimes such as misdemeanors before they turned 18, those minor incidents may not be an obstacle in their application process for Conditional Permanent Residency as much as being convicted of a felony would. However, since there are no guidelines, no one can be dead sure on which crimes would impact one’s application.

Conditional Permanent Residency is similar to Legal Permanent Residency. However, it lasts for only 6 years and you will not be able to travel abroad for long periods of time. The current legislation states that a person can travel abroad up to 365 days in total for the entire 6 years under Conditional Permanent Residency. You will also qualify for student loans and federal work-study programs, but not for federal financial aid such as Pell Grants.

 

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Illegal Immigration

June 24, 2011 § 1 Comment

Illegal immigration means, migration of foreign citizens into a particular country where such people do not meet the legal requirements for immigrating to that country. In simple terms, they violate the immigration laws of that jurisdiction. Illegal immigration, in general consists of people from poor countries pursuing better life opportunities in more developed countries.

The flow of illegal immigration is almost entirely from countries of lower socioeconomic levels to countries of higher socioeconomic levels, and particularly from developing nations to developed nations. While there are many other reasons associated with immigration, the most common motivation for illegal immigrants is the pursuit of greater economic opportunities and quality of life in the destination country.

Potential immigrants believe the probability and benefits of successfully migrating to the destination country are greater than the costs. These costs may include restrictions living as an illegal immigrant, leaving family and ways of life behind, and the probability of being caught and probably resulting in sanctions.

The neoclassical economic model focuses only at the probability of success in immigrating and finding employment, and the increase in real income an illegal immigrant generally expects. Illegal workers in this model are successful in finding employment by being willing to be paid lower wages than native-born workers are, sometimes even below the minimum wage.

A bifurcating labor market in developed countries creates a demand for unskilled immigrant labor to fill undesirable jobs that native-born citizens do not wish to take, regardless of the wages offered. These so-called “underclass” jobs are jobs such as harvesting crops, unskilled labor in landscaping and construction, house-cleaning, and maid and busboy work in hotels and restaurants, all of which have a significant number of illegal workers and such jobs native-born citizens do not take.

Since there is a decline in the middle-class blue-collar jobs in manufacturing and industry, native-born youth have chosen to acquire higher degrees now that there are fewer blue-collar careers that a worker with no formal education can find. The majority of new blue-collar jobs are the “underclass” work as mentioned earlier, and things to highlight are its unreliability (being temporary), subservient roles and a lack of room for advancement.

Whereas, entry-level white-collar and service jobs are much more appealing and encouraging. They offer advancement opportunities for native-born workers to enter the dominant educated class, even if the job pays the same or less than manual labor does. Hence, this theory maintains that, in a developed country like the US, where now only 12% of the labor force has less than a high school education, there is a lack of native-born workers who have no other alternative but to take undesirable manual labor jobs.

Illegal immigrants, on the other hand, have much lower levels of education. They are still willing to take “underclass” jobs due to their much higher relative wages than those in their home country. Since illegal immigrants often anticipate working only temporarily in the destination country, the lack of opportunity for advancement does not pose as a problem for them. This was proved by a Pew Hispanic Center poll of over 3,000 illegal immigrants from Mexico in the US, which stated that 79% would voluntarily join in a temporary work that will allow them to work legally for several years but then required them to leave.

Per the structural demand theory, just the willingness to work undesirable jobs, rather than for unusually low wages, is what gives illegal immigrants, an employment. The theory also states that cases like this prove that there is no direct competition between unskilled illegal immigrants and native-born workers. It is just that illegal immigrants “take jobs that no one else wants”.

Initiative To Promote US Citizenship

June 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

The USCIS has started a campaign that focuses on promoting United States Citizenship. The campaign is aimed at urging the 12 million odd permanent residents (green card holders) in the US to become citizens. The importance of the campaign is highlighted by the fact that, perhaps for the first time the USCIS has launched a paid advertising campaign to promote American citizenship.

This campaign consists of advertisements on radio, TV, print media and Internet with messages in Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese and English. It is mainly targeted at major US states where there are many green card holders,California, New York, Florida and Texas, for instance. The initiative emphasizes mainly on the awareness of the rights, responsibilities, and importance of being a US citizen. It also throws light on the free naturalization preparation resources available to green card holders.

At present, there are 12.5 million green card holders in the US, and in that a size able 8 million Green Card holders are eligible to file the citizenship form. Mainly, green card holders want to live and work in the US permanently, and they can do that with a permanent resident status itself. This is the main reason why eligible green card holders do not run for citizenship. However, others things they are not aware of is that, citizenship gives them the benefit of voting, getting a US passport to travel without restrictions, obtain better jobs. Studies also reveal that people who become citizens earn more money too. It is an important step and a proud moment in fully integrating into a new society as a US citizen. You can vote, serve on a jury and get more involved in the political process.

Per USCIS, last year more than 700,000 green card holders applied to become US citizens, a significant 25% increase from the previous year. Green Card holders living in the US for 5 years, show good moral character as well as having the ability to pass an English and civics tests can apply for Naturalization. These alone aren’t enough to qualify. There are many other eligibility requirements that one needs to fulfill in order to qualify. USCIS’ main aim through this campaign is to increase awareness of the rights, responsibilities, and importance of US citizenship. USCIS is also keen in increasing the understanding of the naturalization process and requirements and create awareness of available citizenship preparation resources. Another point the USCIS wishes to drive is to educate eligible permanent residents about the steps they need to take while applying and preparing for the naturalization process.

The campaign advertisements have professional actors characterizing immigrant stories that focus on the diverse backgrounds of immigrants (past and present). The stories also make prominent, many of the motivating factors green card holders have stated as common reasons for going for US citizenship.

From the early 1900s, the government has been focusing on promoting an awareness of citizenship among immigrants to get naturalized. The present initiative continues and builds upon those efforts and supports the mission of the USCIS. Since July 2009, USCIS has reached out to more than 32,000 green card holders and potential naturalization applicants at nearly 560 naturalization information sessions through USCIS field offices, local community groups and immigrant-serving organizations.

Think Before Renouncing Your US Citizenship

June 17, 2011 § 1 Comment

Section 349(a)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) governs the ability of a US citizen to renounce his/her US citizenship.

A person wishing to renounce his/her US citizenship should do so voluntarily and with intent to relinquish US citizenship, should appear in person before a US consular or diplomatic officer. He/she should do so in a foreign country (normally at a US Embassy or Consulate) and will be required to sign an oath of renunciation.

Renunciations that do not meet the conditions described above have no effect legally. US citizens cannot effectively renounce their citizenship by mail, through an agent, or while being in US. In fact, US courts have held certain attempts to renounce US citizenship to be ineffective on a variety of grounds, as discussed below.

Effects Of Renouncing US Citizenship

Renounce All Rights and Privileges

A US citizen who wants to renounce his/her citizenship cannot decide to retain some of the privileges of citizenship, as this would lead to logical inconsistency with the concept of renunciation. The Department of State will not approve a loss of citizenship in such instances.

Dual Nationality/Statelessness

If you are intending to renounce your American citizenship, you should be aware that, unless you already have a foreign nationality, you might be rendered stateless and will result in the lack of protection from any government. You will also experience difficulty while traveling as you may not be entitled to a passport from any country.

Even if you are not stateless, you have to get a visa to travel to the US, or show that you are eligible for admission pursuant to the terms of the Visa Waiver Pilot Program (VWPP). If you are considered ineligible for a visa or the VWPP to come to the US, under certain circumstances you could be barred from entering the US. Nonetheless, renunciation of American citizenship may not prevent a foreign country from deporting you back to the US in some non-citizen status.

Tax and Military Obligations

Also, you should also be aware of the fact that if you renounce American citizenship, it may have no effect whatsoever on your US tax or military service obligations. Adding to this, renouncing American citizenship will not allow you to avoid possible prosecution for crimes which you may have committed in the US, or escape the repayment of financial obligations previously incurred in the US or what you incurred as a US citizen abroad.

Renunciation For Minor Children

You cannot renounce US citizenship on behalf of your minor children. Before an oath of renunciation will be administered, a person under the age of eighteen should be able to convince a US diplomatic or consular officer that he/she fully understands the nature and consequences of the oath of renunciation, is not subject to duress or undue influence, and is voluntarily seeking to renounce his/her citizenship.

Renunciation is Irrevocable

Another important fact to consider is that renunciation of American citizenship is irrevocable, except as provided in section 351 of the INA. It cannot be canceled or set aside. However, one who renounced his/her citizenship before the age of eighteen can have that citizenship reinstated if he/she makes that desire known to the Department of State within six months after attaining the age of eighteen.

If you are contemplating renouncing US citizenship, consider the effects of renouncing as described above before jumping to such a conclusion.

Initiative to Combat Immigration Services Scams

June 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

The US government started a multi-agency, nationwide initiative to combat immigration services scams. The Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are in the forefront in this initiative. This initiative aims at immigration scams involving the unauthorized practice of immigration law (UPIL), which happens when legal advice and/or representation regarding US immigration matters is given by an individual who is not an attorney or accredited representative.

This initiative is based on three pillars—enforcement, education and continued collaboration—formed to prevent UPIL scams and prosecute those who are responsible and also to educate immigrants about these scams and how to avoid them; and inform immigrants about the legal immigration process and where to find legitimate legal advice. The Department of Justice is investigating and prosecuting many cases against so-called “notarios.” Last year, DOJ has worked with investigators at the FBI, ICE, and USCIS, and with state and local partners, to secure convictions—with sentences up to eight years in prison and forfeiture and restitution of over $1.8 million. This is apart from the many actions at the state and local levels that have been filed against individuals and businesses engaged in immigration services scams.

In a recent case in West Palm Beach, Fla., ICE Homeland Security Investigations agents arrested an individual on May 26 who had posed as an attorney and processed more than 3,000 fraudulent immigration applications.

Meanwhile, FTC has created a new Immigration Services code in the Consumer Sentinel Network, its online consumer complaint database, thus making it easier for consumers to alert law enforcement about these scams. Sentinel is a secure online database that has more than 6 million consumer fraud complaints. Sentinel will act as an investigative tool for USCIS Fraud Detection and National Security officers, and will support communication between organizations on immigration services scam-related cases.

USCIS’s efforts will be primarily aimed at providing immigrants with the information they need to make informed choices when seeking legal advice and representation on immigration matters. USCIS has also unveiled a new brochure, a poster, public service announcements for use on radio and in print publications, billboard and transit ads, and a new Web resource center that includes a video.

To bolster this effort, DOJ’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) and FTC will produce and distribute educational materials for different populations that may be affected by immigration services scams. Driven by a continuing dialogue with DOJ, the City Bar of New York, the New York State Bar Association, the New York Office of the Attorney General, the Katzmann Study Group, and nongovernmental organizations, a legal training program will be launched this summer in New York City to expand the pool of lawyers who can assist in immigration matters.

Asylees becoming US citizens

June 4, 2011 § 1 Comment

As an asylee, you can adjust your status to a lawful permanent resident ( green card holder) of the United States one year after being granted asylum. Apart from this, you can also petition for your family members (spouse, minor children, and unmarried adult sons and daughters) for legal permanent resident status in the US. To apply to adjust status, you have to file Form I-485 with the USCIS.

You should prove that you have been physically present in the US for one year after having been granted asylum status and that you remain a refugee (with a “well-founded fear of persecution,” etc.). You should also have to prove that you have not resettled in any foreign country and also that you are not “inadmissible” or warrant a waiver of applicable grounds of “inadmissibility.”

While adjusting status, you have to file the following documents with the USCIS:

  • Form I-485 and appropriate fee
  • Form G-325
  • 2 passport size photographs
  • Fee for Fingerprinting
  • Evidence of asylee status (copy of I-94 and letter granting asylum or any decision by an Immigration Judge)
  • Birth certificate
  • Proof that you have been living in the US for the last year
  • Valid proof for change of name (if you have legally changed your name since getting asylee status.

Asylees need not prove that they are not “likely to become a public charge”. Even if you are receiving means-tested benefits such as public assistance or SSI, it will not prevent you from applying for legal permanent residence. You can also request a waiver of the filing fee while adjusting status if you can prove that paying the fee would result in financial hardship.

Once you have filed the I-485 form, you will receive an interview notice from the USCIS along with a medical examination form that you are required to complete per the instructions. If you had entered the US with fraudulent documents (such as a passport purchased on the black market), you should submit an application for a waiver of inadmissibility through Form I-602.

You will then have an interview that will primarily focus on eligibility for adjustment to permanent residence and not on the underlying asylum claim. However, not all asylees who file to adjust status will have interviews.

Citizenship :

As a lawful permanent resident, you can submit Form N-400, application for citizenship to become a US citizen after five years of becoming a permanent resident. Once Form I-485 is approved, the date of admission is one year before the date of approval of the adjustment of status application. It means the wait to apply for american citizenship is reduced to four years (generally is five years for other permanent residents). Citizenship is the highest immigration status in the US and it has many advantages when compared to being a permanent resident

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