The Consulate of Mexico will be holding a Mobile Consulate on Saturday November 16th in Calistoga, California, where Mexican nationals will be able to obtain passports and Mexican ID cards (matrículas).
The mobile consulate will be set up at:
Calistoga Elementary School
1327 Berry Street Calistoga, CA 94515
It is necessary to schedule an appointment either by phone (1.877.639.4835), or through the internet (sreweb.mexitel.com.mx/mexitel_web/) prior to November 16, in order to receive services on that day.
The Consulate of Mexico will be holding a Mobile Consulate on Saturday November 16th in Calistoga, California, where Mexican nationals will be able to obtain passports and Mexican ID cards (matrículas).
I am currently working on an application for political asylum in which I am trying to show that severe economic detriment constitutes persecution sufficient to establish asylum. This is rather difficult because there is no physical persecution. One of the main cases on this issue is Himri v. Ashcroft, 378 F.3d 932 (9th Cir. 2004).
In Himri, the applicants were stateless Palestinians who had been living in Kuwait but fled when Iraq invaded in 1991. They held Jordanian travel documents but these were only used for international travel; they did not convey citizenship. As in my case, they had not been subjected to physical persecution in the past.
After Kuwait was liberated from Iraq, the government took measures to eliminate the Palestinian population by expelling them and by subjecting them to extreme economic discrimination. The question presented in Himri was whether or not economic discrimination was sufficient to constitute persecution. Citing to Hoxha v. Ashcroft, 319 F.3d 1179, 1182-83 (9th Cir. 2003),the Court noted first that when persecution is widespread in a country, an individual may establish an objectively reasonable fear of persecution in that country by showing that as a member of that group, he or she stands a heightened risk of persecution.
In Himri, the Court reviewed the country condition evidence and observed that Kuwait had systematically targeted Palestinians. "Through forced expulsions, extreme persecution and discrimination, Kuwait decreased its Palestinian population from a pre-war total of 350,000 to a current population of about 35,000." Himri at p. 936. Those that fled Kuwait were not permitted to return. After the war, the Palestinians that remained were not permitted to go to work, go to school or obtain drinking water. Finally, non-Kuwaitis had a heightened risk of abuse by the police.
The Court held that the Himris met their burden in showing that they were members of a persecuted minority. Even if they would be able to return and avoid physical persecution, they "would not be able to avoid the state-sponsored economic discrimination that has been enacted against Palestinians living in Kuwait since the end of the Gulf War." Id., at p. 937.
What is interesting in this case is that the Court never discussed the specific protected asylum ground that the applicants met. I.e., was the Court deciding this on the basis of a social group or nationality? The closest the Court came was to say that the Himris were members of a "persecuted minority." This seems to suggest "social group." If you are filing an application with a similar claim, it would be best to argue all applicable grounds just to be safe.
Given the current job market, it is often difficult for a petitioner/sponsor to have an annual income that meets 125% of the poverty guidelines, sufficient to file an affidavit of support, Form I-864. It has become increasingly common to use an intending immigrant's income to supplement the petitioner's income.
An intending immigrant, if working legally in the United States, may use his or her income on the affidavit of support. Here is an example. Assume the intending immigrant is presently in the United States on a H-1B visa and will be marrying a U.S. Citizen. The intending immigrant is working legally because he or she is working pursuant to a H-1B visa. The H-1B visa holder would indicate his or her income in Part 6 of the I-864. In response to Part 6, Question 10, the sponsor would then total both incomes and list the total household income.
The intending immigrant is not required to sign anything or complete a Form I-864A unless he or she has accompanying children. The intending immigrant, however, does have to provide proof that his or her income will continue from the same source after obtaining permanent residence. At first glance, this appears to be an impossible requirement to meet. No one can predict the future and what will happen with a job. The best way to handle this is to provide a letter from the employer stating that the intending immigrant is currently employed and that the employer anticipates continued employment after permanent residence is obtained. I have attached a sample letter that you can use. The letter should be enough to prove that the intending immigrant's income will continue.
According to a recent article in the Vallejo Times Herald, "Vallejo is Tops in the nation in ethnic diversity," Vallejo is the nation's most diverse city and Solano County ranks as one of the top most ethnically diverse areas. This diversity was probably due to at least two factors. First, Vallejo was once a Navy town. People from all over the United States came to work here. Second, It was probably also due to waves of immigration as people have moved here over the years from all parts of the world.
It is only fitting therefore, that Vallejo celebrates diversity, with "Unity Day." According to "Vallejo Together," the community group organizing Unity Day, the purpose of Unity Day is to "celebrate Vallejo's rich diversity in culture, faith, orientation, age and abilities. It's a day where we celebrate who we are and what we are doing in community." The free event will take place on Sunday, September 15, 2013, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at Vallejo City Park. There will be musicians, dancing, entertainment, and food for sale. Various community organizations - political, cultural, and religious, are also sponsoring booths where they will be giving out material about their groups. I went to the event last year and was pleasantly surprised at how festive it was. It was a lot of fun and made me proud to be part of the community.
You can find out more information about Unity Day on Vallejo Together's Facebook page.
Whistle-blowing against corruption is political opinion and may form the basis for a political asylum case
I am currently working a political asylum case in my San Francisco office involving a person who was a whistle blower against corruption. The most recent published case to discuss corruption and whistle-blowing is Antonyan v. Holder 642 F.3d 1250 (2011) In Antonyan, the applicant, Nune Antonyan, had witnessed a drug crime committed by a notorious drug criminal. She reported the crime and pushed the police to investigate. The police refused and the prosecutor's office refused as well. It was only when she approached the National Security Agency that they agreed to help her if she would testify against him. Although he was arrested, the case did not go far because the police released him. He had bribed government officials and had connections with law enforcement. They intervened for him and secured his release. Because of her "whistle-blowing," she feared retaliation by him. He was protected by corrupt government officials who were being paid off by him and who could not and would not protect her. He also had threatened her and her family directly. She fled Armenia and came to the United States.
In order to win political asylum, an applicant must prove that he or she has been harmed in the past or has a well-founded fear of future persecution on account of one of five grounds: race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group or political opinion. Antonyan sought political asylum in the United States because, in her words, she stood up against a notorious drug criminal and a corrupt system in which a person cannot feel protected. The Court noted that in order for her to succeed in an asylum claim based on her political opinion, she would have to show that (1) that she held, or her persecutors believed she held a political opinion, and (2) that she was harmed because of that political opinion.
The 9th Circuit Court felt that she showed both. Whistle-blowing against government corruption is an expression of political opinion. However, in order to demonstrate whether the act of whistle-blowing is political, the applicant must show that it was directed to an institution. The Court held that it was. Her testimony was against a criminal drug dealer, a corrupt police department and a prosecutor's office that refused to help her. She was able to show that she was harmed because of that opinion. Both she and her family received threats and were also physically harmed.
At the time that this decision was rendered, an applicant had to show that her persecutors were motivated, in part, by one of the protected grounds (race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group or political opinion). The law has since changed. An applicant now has to show that one of the protected grounds will be at least one central reason for that persecution. While this is a higher standard, it is not impossible to show in whistleblower cases. It most likely would have been found in this case. The Court noted that Antonyan had been threatened and attacked by the drug dealer due to his knowledge that she was exposing his corrupt ties to law enforcement agencies.
Antonyan is a good case to keep in mind when pursuing a political asylum application based on whistle-blowing. The key to a successful claim is to show that the persecution is on account of a political opinon, not a personal one.
It has been legal for a week! With the Supreme Court's decisions last week, gay couples may get married in California and US citizens may petition to immigrate their foreign born spouses. In Hollingsworth v. Perry,the Court ruled that the official sponsors of Proposition 8 opposed to same sex marriage, did not have standing to challenge a federal court decision declaring the ballot measure to be unconstitutional. The result is that same sex couples now have the right to marry in California. In United States v. Windsor,the Supreme Court held that Section 3 of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) was unconstitutional, thereby permitting same sex marriage and entiltelment to federal benefits.
The right to marry is huge for gay and lesbian couples, especially those who wish to pursue immigration to the United States. But, the right to marry does not guarantee the right to a green card. Gay and lesbian foreign nationals are subject to all the laws regarding admissibility that all foreign nationals are subject to. I recommend that anyone considering immigrating consult with an immigration lawyer before starting the process. I have already started preparing petitions for gay and lesbian couples and would be happy to arrange for a consultation.
In May 2013, U.S. Customs and Border Protection ("CBP") rolled out its new automated arrival/departure record process for foreign visitors to San Francisco. CBP had started its program in April and it reached us in May.
Prior to April 2013, all visitors to the United States would receive a paper "Form I-94." An I-94 is the Department of Homeland Security's ("DHS") Arrival/Departure Record issued to individuals who are admitted to the United States, who are adjusting status while in the United States or extending their stay, among other things. A CBP officer attached the I-94 to the non -immigrant visitor's passport upon U.S. entry.
Those paper I-94 cards were always problematic. More often than not, people lost them. Although stapled to the passport, they often fell out. Other times, people did not know what they were used for and thought they could throw them away.
In April, CBP started an automated process. Now when a traveler enters the United States, CBP will create an I-94 record for all travelers who require one, but the paper form will be created in an electronic format and not provided to the traveler. If a traveler require a paper version of Form I-94, it is available here.
This works well in theory but so far it has not worked completely in practice. I have two clients who have had to go to CBP personally in order to obtain their electronic I-94s. In one instance, my client was told that because her plane had arrived late, her I-94 was not available online. I am not sure how the time of plane arrival translates into electronic access but anyway, CBP gave my clients their electronic I-94s. It therefore seems that if the electronic access is not working, you are able to obtain one in person at you local CBP office.
There are certain individuals who will continue to receive paper I-94s. These folks include all persons who enter through land boarder ports of entry. Also, CBP intends to continue providing a paper Form I-94 to certain classes of individuals, such as refugees, asylees and parolees.
For more information about CPB's I-94 automation, you may visit their Frequently Asked Questions. Overall, the electronic I-94 is a much welcomed advance in technology.
In order to obtain a H-1B visa, a potential employee is required to show that he or she has an unrestricted state license, registration or certification which authorizes him or her to fully practice the specialty occupation and be immediately engaged in that specialty in the state of intended employment. 8 C.F.R. Section 214.2(h)(4)(v)
Licensing is required for certain professionals in California: occupational therapists, physical therapists, architects and social workers, to name a few.
If you do not have a license to practice the occupation, there are several other "work-arounds" that you may pursue and still obtain a H-1B visa.
- Obtain a temporary license Many occupations allow professionals to obtain a temporary license. For instance, it can take social workers years before they are eligible to take the licensing exam but applicants may apply to be "Associate Clinical Social Workers" (ASW) and work under the supervision of a Licensed Clinical Social Worker while they are pursuing their post-masters experience and preparing for the licensing exam. USCIS regulations permit such employment if a temporary license is available and if the duties of the occupation can be performed without a permanent license. In this situation, USCIS will examine the nature of the duties, the level at which the duties are performed, the degree of supervision received, and any limitations placed on the worker. If an analysis of the facts demonstrates that the individual under supervision is authorized to fully perform the duties of the occupation, H classification may be granted. 8 C.F.R. Section 214.2(h)(4)(v)(B)
- Become licensed in another state that is faster I am not familiar with the licensing requirements of all states but some states may have a faster licensing process than California does. Once licensed in another state, it may be possible to work in California for a brief time while applying for licensing in California. For instance an occupational therapist who holds a valid license in another state may work in California for 60 calendar days from the date he or she submits an application to the Board of Occupational Therapy.
- Work under the license of a professional For some professions it is possible to work under the license of a professional. Architects have to go through a lengthy process to become licensed in California. They must go through an intern development program and take exams. While going through this process, they may work as "intern architects" for a licensed architect in H-1B status.
When people start to file immigrant petitions with US Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS"), they realize that there is a fee for every part in the process. There is a fee for the relative petition paid to USCIS, and a fee for the visa, paid to the Department of State. Now there is a fee to have the green card processed and mailed to you because somehow all of the other fees you paid do not cover that cost.
Beginning in February 2013, USCIS began charging a "USCIS Immigrant Fee." This fee is required for all persons immigrating to the United States by obtaining a visa at a consulate or embassy abroad, including Canada or Mexico.
The fee is paid online after receiving the visa package from the Department of State and prior to entering into the United States. The fee must come from a U.S. bank so it generally means that the sponsor or a relative in the United States will be paying the fee. The fee is currently $165 and it is per person.
There are a few exceptions of persons with certain statuses who do not have to pay the fee. These exempt statuses include:
- Children who enter the United States pursuant to the Orphan or Hague Adoption programs
- Iraq and Afghan special immigrants
- returning residents (SB-1s)
- K visas
The USCIS immigrant fee is paid online. You will need the following information to pay:
- The alien number of the applicant;
- The Case ID number of the applicant;
- Your checking account information, or;
- Your debit or credit card information.
If you do not pay, you will not receive your green card. It is therefore advisable to pay the fee as soon as you receive the packet from the Department of State.
Being close to Silicon Valley, and in this day and age, you would think that original signatures would no longer be required on USCIS forms. Unfortunately they are required. In fact, USCIS has stated in their official blog that if an application or petition does not contain an original signature it will be rejected.
The guidance that USCIS gives is divided into two parts; the first is for attorneys filing applications and the second is for individuals filing on their own. For attorneys, it is important to note that an attorney must sign Form G-28, Notice of Appearance and have the petitioner or applicant also sign it. The original must then be submitted with the filing.
If an individual is filing alone, he or she must sign the application or petition and then submit the original to USCIS. Parents or guardians may sign for children under the age of 14.
USCIS does accept some forms electronically and for those forms, an electronic signature is acceptable. If you are filing on a paper form though, you will need your pen. To read more about signatures, see USCIS' fact sheet on Signature Requirements for USCIS forms.
Live from my San Francisco office, I will giving a presentation on US Immigration Law while in the virtual world of Second Life.© The presentation will take place on April 6, 2013 at 10:00 a.m.
I will discuss immigration law in general and then focus on family-based immigration law. No prior knowledge of immigration law is necessary because I will define basic terms and statuses and explain our government's quota system. I will describe how a citizen may petition for a fiance or spouse to immigrate to the United States. Finally, I will discuss current events including the Defense of Marriage Act and proposals for immigration reform.
You will need to log onto Second Life in order to see the presentation. After you log into Second Life, you may go to the presentation by transporting your avatar to the Second Life Bar Association's outdoor theater here: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Justitia/171/84/954
The Department of Homeland Security recently released a publication, "U.S. Naturalizations: 2012, "which provides statistical information on the numbers of people naturalizing, the gender of applicants and the countries they come from, and more. In 2012, a total of 757,434 persons naturalized. California was the home of the largest percentages of persons naturalizing (21%). It was almost double that of Florida (13%) and New York (12%).
The leading metropolitan area in California where most naturalization applicants lived was Los Angeles - Long Beach -Santa Ana. Interestingly, the San Francisco metropolitan area had the largest percentage decline (7/1%) in naturalizations from 2011 to 2012.