Friday, October 30, 2009

President Obama Signs Bill and Extends Programs

On Wednesday, October 28, 2009, President Obama signed into law the FY10 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill (P.L. 111-83). The law extends through September 30, 2012 the following programs: "Conrad 30" for J-1 waivers for physicians, the EB-5 Pilot Program for Regional Centers and E-Verify. It also extends the ability of non-minister religious workers to file Special Immigrant Religious Worker Petitions in order to obtain U.S. permanent residence.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Green Card Lottery Starts Today!

The 2011 Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV-2011), better known as the green card lottery, starts today at noon Eastern Daylight Time. The program runs through noon Eastern Standard Time on November 30, 2009. The green card lottery is not available to individuals borth in Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam. Persons born in Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR, and Taiwan are eligible. For more information or to apply, please see

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Importance of the End of the Immigration Fiscal Year

Today is the end of the fiscal year for immigration, which runs from October 1 to September 30. The start of a new fiscal year is a significant event. New visa numbers become available, including new H-1B numbers and likely some new immigrant visa numbers for certain preference categories. It also means that the various immigration agencies (USCIS, CBP, ICE, State Department, etc.) tally the many immigration statistics (e.g., number of entries, number of immigrant visas issued, etc.), which they have been keeping all year.

September 30 is often the date chosen by Congress to sunset certain provisions in the law. Today marks the end (i.e., the sunset date) for obtaining U.S. permanent residence as a non-minster religious worker and through investment in one of the EB-5 Regional Centers. Hopefully, Congress will extend both of these worthwhile programs.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Can’t Buy Me Love – Overcoming the Sham Marriage Visa Denial

Although marriage to a U.S. citizen is still the most common way to get U.S. permanent residence (also known as a “green card”), by no means does it guarantee that permanent residence will be granted. I have had a number of calls recently from distressed U.S. citizens. Each had petitioned for their foreign national spouse. The I-130 petition was initially approved, but at the immigrant visa interview held at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, the relationship came into question. Essentially, the Consular Officer did not believe that the couple had a bona fide marriage. The Consular Officer denied the visa and sent the case back to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) in the United States for the I-130 petition to be revoked. This happened after waiting many months for the petition and immigrant visa application to be processed.

The accusation of a sham marriage can be very difficult to overcome. The foreign national spouse often lives outside the U.S. Due to personal and financial obligations, which require the U.S. citizen spouse to remain in the U.S., the couple may have spent very little time together. Consequently, there will not be many photographs of the couple together, and there will not be many people to attest to the fact that the couple’s marriage is bona fide because they have not spent time with the couple. Additionally, because the two spouses live apart, they will likely not have a joint mortgage or lease and will not have joint utility bills. In fact, they might not have any commingled assets at all.

In this world of ever-improving technology, less people rely on old-fashioned, hand-written letters and paper greeting cards. Instead, they e-mail, send e-cards and instant message. If the e-mails and e-cards are not saved, it will be very difficult to show that the two spouses have corresponded with one another.

It is worse yet if the spouse, who is living abroad, does not have access to a computer. The couple may not write at all. Rather, they call each other. However, in this day in age, chances are the phone calls have been made with either a cell phone or a calling card. In either case, it is likely that the caller does not have records of the calls he or she made. Thus, there is no way for the couple to prove that they have been keeping in contact by phone.

In those cases where the immigrant visa is denied, it may be necessary for the U.S. citizen spouse to spend additional time with the foreign national spouse before he or she responds to the USCIS’ notice of intent to revoke the I-130 petition. During the time spent together, additional evidence that the couple married in good faith can be collected. If spending additional time together is simply not an option, the couple must make every effort to document their correspondence and phone calls. They should also try to collect as many affidavits as possible from people who know that the couple married for mutual love and respect. If the I-130 petition is revoked, a new I-130 petition will need to be filed once sufficient evidence of the bona fide relationship is collected.

Before filing an I-130 petition, I always advise my marriage-based clients to collect as much documentation as possible showing that they married in good faith. Such documentation includes joint bank account statements, evidence of joint ownership of property, utility bills in both names, joint tax returns, and birth certificates of children born to the union, to name a few examples. I provide my clients with a list of the documents, which the USCIS and/or the consular post will want to see. Then, the I-130 petition is filed with the documentation collected by my clients.

If the foreign national spouse was previously married to a U.S. citizen or U.S. permanent resident, whether or not that prior spouse filed an I-130 petition on behalf of the foreign national, it is a very good idea to submit evidence that the prior marriage was also bona fide. Likewise, if the U.S. citizen spouse was previously married to a different foreign national and filed an I-130 petition for that foreign national, it is a good idea to submit evidence that it was a bona fide marriage.

If you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and plan to marry a foreign national or are already married to a foreign national, you may benefit from the guidance an immigration lawyer can offer. Vicki Anderson is an immigration lawyer practicing in Minnesota. She can be reached at 651-209-3269 or at

Thursday, June 4, 2009

June 14, 2009 Event in Support of Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Congressman Keith Ellison will host an event in support of comprehensive immigration reform on Sunday, June 14, 2009. The event will take place at 2:30 p.m. at Incarnation Church, which is located at 3800 Pleasant Avenue South, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 55409. Congressman Luis Gutierrez of Illinois will also participate in the event.

LISTEN to diverse personal stories on the impact of a broken immigration system. Take ACTION through multi‐cultural, interreligious and multi‐partisan solutions. PARTICIPATE in a national movement to change our immigration system.

Although comprehensive immigration reform is one of President Obama's priorities, there are only so many issues which can be taken-up during a legislative session. President Obama and Congress must also deal with the economy, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and our health care system. If we want President Obama and Congress to reform our immigration system, it will likely need to happen in 2009, as it is not likely to occur in 2010, which is an election year. The time to get involved and let Congress know that immigration reform is needed is now!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Permanent Residence for Parents of U.S. Citizens

If you are a U.S. citizen and you have a parent (or parents) who would like U.S. permanent residence (i.e., a "green card"), you can petition for them. If your parent is outside the United States, your parent will need to apply for an immigrant visa at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your parent's home country after the petition has been approved. If your parent is in the United States and is currently in a valid nonimmigrant status, it may be possible to file your parent's application for adjustment of status simultaneously with your immediate relative petition.

For more information about filing an immediate relative petition for a parent and the requirements for your parent to obtain U.S. permanent residence, please contact my office at 651-209-3269.

Naturalization - Fourth Eligibility Requirement

The fourth and final requirement is that the applicant be a person of good moral character for the five (or three as discussed below) years immediately preceding the filing of the naturalization application. The Immigration and Nationality Act lists certain activities which will prohibit a finding of good moral character. Most of these activities relate to illiegal behavior including, but not limited to: prostitution, illegal gambling, possession of a controlled substance and giving false information to receive an immigration benefit. In addition, the applicant will not be found a person of good moral character if he or she has at any time been convicted of an aggravated felony.

If you are thinking about applying for naturalization, but you have a criminal conviction or pleaded guilty to a crime, you should speak to an immigration lawyer before filing the application.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Naturalization - 3rd Eligibility Requirement

Applicants for naturalization must have been physically present in the United States for at least 50% of the time during the five years immediately preceding the filing of their applications for naturalization. If the applicant is the spouse of a U.S. citizen or if the applicant qualified for permanent residence as the battered spouse or child of a U.S. citizen, he or she must have been physically present in the United States for at least 50% of the time during the three years immediately preceding the filing of his or her applciation for naturalization.

In addition, the applicant must have lived for at least 90 days within the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services district in which he or she applies.

The physical presence and residence requirements do not apply to the exceptions set forth below in the 1st Eligibility Requirement.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Naturalization - 2nd Eligibility Requirement

Apart from the exceptions mentioned in my 1st Eligibilty Requirement blog (see below), the earliest a person can apply for naturalization is 90 days prior to the fifth anniversary of becoming a U.S. permanent resident. For spouses of U.S. citizens as well as persons who obtained U.S. permanent resident status as a battered spouse or child of a U.S. citizen, the earliest an application for naturalization can be filed is 90 days prior to the third anniversary of becoming a U.S. permanent resident.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Naturalization - 1st Eligibility Requirement

The road to U.S. citizenship can be very long. In most situations, a person cannot apply for naturalization (i.e., U.S. citizenship) until he or she has been a U.S. permanent resident for five years.

If a person is married to a U.S. citizen and has been living in marital union with his or her U.S. citizen spouse for three years, that person may be eligible to apply for naturalization when he or she has been a U.S. permanent resident for only three years. Any person who obtained U.S. permanent resident status as a battered spouse or child of a U.S. citizen may also be eligible to apply for naturalization after three years in permanent resident status.

There are some exceptions, including the case of a person who has served in the U.S. military for at least one year. There is no requirement that the person first obtain U.S. permanent residence before applying for naturalization.

Other exceptions include, but are not limited to, a person whose spouse is a U.S. citizen regularly stationed abroad due to his or her employment and a permanent resident whose spouse is a member of the U.S. Armed Forces and is stationed abroad.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Visa vs. Status

Many people often misuse the word "visa". Within the U.S. immigration context, a visa can only be issued by a U.S. Embassy or Consulate outside the U.S. The visa is the document which is placed in the passport. It merely allows a foreign national to enter the U.S.

When a foreign national with a visa arrives at a U.S. port of entry, he or she must present that visa. Upon being admitted to the U.S. with that visa, the foreign national is granted a status. For example, when a foreign national arrives at a U.S. port of entry with a B-1/B-2 visitor visa with the intention of being a tourist, that foreign national may be admitted to the U.S. in B-2 status. That status will likely be valid for 6 months. If, during his or her stay the foreign national decides to stay longer than 6 months, he or she can apply for an extension of status.

Assuming that a foreign national within the U.S. maintains his or her status, it does not matter if his or her visa expires, so long as the foreign national does not travel outside the U.S.