Articles Posted in Self Petitioned

children-crossing-2-1209887-m.jpgResidents of Iraq and Syria have a somewhat rare opportunity in their wide ability to receive asylum in the United States. The process by which this may occur could be onerous for some, but it frequently is resulting in total U.S. immigration success. Those granted asylum may apply for permanent residence if the situation that led to their approval does not resolve itself within one year. For many who are asylum eligible, the only true difficulty is finding a way to reach the United States. Once there, the granting or denial of asylum will be based on how potentially dangerous it would be for the foreign national if he or she is sent back (among some other factors).

Since 2011, several locations across North and East Africa and the Middle East have become destabilized. This has paved the way for radical groups with oppressive ideologies to organize and in several cases seize whole territories. Perhaps chief among those is the Islamic State (IS). Not surprising considering its former name; the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the group is the dominant force in many sections of those countries. In these sections, national authorities have little to no control, and those with the great misfortune of living in them are trapped with little to no reasonable means of escape.

Foreign Nationals are eligible for U.S. asylum in most cases only if they prove that they have a “reasonable fear” of serious persecution primarily on the grounds of “race, religion, national origin, political opinion, or membership in a social group.” The persecution must be shown to either be coming from one’s government or from forces that it is unwilling or unable to stop. It is not in serious dispute that IS counts as one of these groups. Thus, anyone who enters the United States with a reasonable fear of falling into IS’s hands if sent home is eligible. A “reasonable fear” for the purposes of asylum is an apparent likelihood of at least one to eight that the alien will be persecuted on one of the listed grounds.

buildingsite-1132003-m.jpgEB-5 is an immigration option for those with the resources to invest in U.S. job creation. It allows an immigrant to be eligible for permanent residence if he or she invests at least $1,000,000 in the U.S.–and with it creates at least ten jobs. (The monetary requirement is half if the investment is made in a designated “Target Employment Area,” which is either rural or suffering from an unemployment rate at least 50% higher than the national average.) There are two ways to do this: by going it alone with individual or “Direct” investment, or by using a Regional Center. We have said before that those who wish to immigrate in order to invest should use direct investment, while those who want to invest in order to immigrate should consider using a Regional Center. Both sides have their advantages, but the Regional Center option is viewed as a safer bet–with greater support from others–than the alternative.

A Regional Center is a government approved economic entity that takes in foreign investment and outputs domestic job creation. In contrast with EB-5 Direct, Regional Center immigrant investors do not need to be more than minimally involved in managing the investment. Most Centers boast several apparently effective schemes for protecting and returning investor money, each with varying levels of risk/potential reward. However, it is not possible for an immigrant investor to avoid risk altogether. (The government requires that the money be at risk for green card eligibility.)

Another key attraction of the Regional Center program, as opposed to EB-5 Direct, is its more inclusive definition of job creation. Under EB-5 Direct, all ten required jobs must manifest themselves as actual employees of the company or enterprise being invested in by the immigrant. These are called direct jobs. However, for Regional Center investors, “indirect” jobs may also be counted.

1037536_money_in_hand.jpgThe EB5 immigrant visa category is a way for foreign national investors to obtain lawful permanent residency in the US, otherwise known as the green card. This visa category is for immigrant investors who will be engaged in a commercial enterprise that produces 10 US jobs and will benefit the US economy.

In order for a foreign national to qualify, the person must make an investment of $1 million. The investment requirement lowers to $500,000 if it can be established that the investment will be for what is known as a targeted employment area, which means a rural area or an area having at least 150% of the national unemployment average.
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320px-White_House_from_South.jpgThe Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a new policy towards certain undocumented immigrants, giving them an opportunity to obtain employment authorization and relief from deportation. The policy addresses many of the benefits that would have been available to young immigrants under the DREAM Act,. Critics say the policy oversteps the executive branch’s authority, while supporters say it is a vital step in creating a sensible immigration system and improving the economy. The policy only exists at the executive level, enacted through “prosecutorial discretion.” A future administration, or even this one, could change the policy again with little public input. It is a step in the right direction for thousands of immigrants, but it may not be a long-lasting solution.

The new policy, announced on June 15, 2012, creates a process of “deferred action” for qualifying immigrants. This means that, for so long as individual immigrants meet the policy’s criteria, the government will not seek to deport them. Deferrals are available for two-year periods, with possible renewal. People receiving deferrals may also obtain employment authorization during the deferral period. The policy could affect up to 800,000 immigrants.
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Fedmap4The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on May 1, 2012 that it will extend Somalia’s eligibility for temporary protected status (TPS) for eighteen months from its current expiration date. The government cited the ongoing “disruption of living conditions” in the east African nation due to severe drought conditions, armed conflict, and political instability. Somalia has had TPS status since September 16, 1991, and was redesignated in 2001. The extension allows individuals currently registered as TPS to re-apply, and it allows individuals who are from Somalia but present in the United States to obtain TPS for the first time.

Somalia is a country in east Africa with a population of approximately 10 million, according to the U.S. State Department, with land area making it slightly smaller than the state of Texas. Of its total population, about 2 million people live in the region of Somaliland in the north, which seeks international recognition as a separate, independent country. The country has endured decades of civil war, but its current troubles began over twenty years ago, when the national government collapsed in 1991. Various factions, supported by a variety of foreign governments and organizations, have fought for control of the country ever since. A severe drought began in the spring of 2011, leading to widespread famine and a worsening refugee situation in neighboring countries. The United States has contributed millions of dollars in humanitarian aid. Armed conflict continues as well, according to the State Department, with neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia sending troops into the country in the past year.
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ellis island flag.jpgSecretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services have made temporary protected status (TPS) available to Syrian nationals effective March 29, 2012. This means that Syrians, who were in the United States as of March 29, 2012, are eligible to stay in the United States for eighteen months and can receive a work authorization document allowing them to work in the US through September 30, 2013. Attorneys from the Law Firm of Shihab & Associates will make themselves available to all persons who have questions regarding this form of humanitarian relief.

Time Frames and Deadlines for TPS
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1206728_21045799_03192012.jpgThe Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA) is a federal law that provides for additional resources for the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes committed against women, including immigration provisions protecting people who may lack legal status but also need protection from an abusive spouse, parent, or child. After two renewals of the law in 2000 and 2005, it is up for reauthorization again in 2012.

Several Democratic Senators brought VAWA up for renewal again on Thursday, March 15, in the midst of an already-charged political climate. With debates over issues like insurance coverage of contraception dominating the news in recent weeks, this is either a very opportune time to bring up this issue, or a very bad time. It is important to note, however, that VAWA offers important protections to immigrants who may have a valid claim to a green card or visa, but who cannot obtain one because of a bad domestic situation.
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Mexican Family.jpgMany spouses and children of U.S. citizens qualify for legal immigration status, but are required to file the application overseas at their country of origin because they are unlawfully present in the U.S., also called “entering without inspection.” If they were unlawfully present in the U.S. for more than 180 days, and then they go overseas, there is a law that bars them from reentering the U.S. for 3 years. This bar increases to 10 years if the illegal stay is longer than one year. This creates a catch-22 because if they leave the U.S. to apply for legal immigration status, they will be unable to reenter for 3 to 10 years. So, rather than go overseas to apply for legal status, many simply remain unlawfully in the U.S. to avoid being separated from their family for several years.

Many people who would be subject to the 3 or 10 year bar may be eligible for certain hardship waivers to allow them to return to the US after they apply for legal status overseas despite the 3 and 10 year bar. But critics say this process is lengthy and flawed. They are required to remain overseas until the waiver is granted before they can reenter the U.S., which is a process that can take from months to years, and there is no guarantee that the waiver will be granted. Therefore, many do not risk going overseas to apply for the waiver.
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Clock.jpgA class action lawsuit was filed last week against US immigration agencies on behalf of many asylum applicants who were wrongly denied work authorization, A.B.T., K.M.-W., G.K., L.K.G., D.W. v. USCIS; EOIR (Case No. 2:11-cv-02108 A.B.T). The nationwide lawsuit was filed by the American Immigration Council’s Legal Action Center (LAC) against the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) in the United States District Court in Seattle. The suit alleges that the USCIS and EOIR delays violate the Constitution, federal statutes, and governing regulations.

Asylum seekers are not eligible for work authorization during the 180-day period after the application is filed. But according to federal law, asylum applicants are to be granted work authorization after the application has been pending for 180 days. Due to unlawful and unfair practices and policies, U.S. immigration agencies have prevented asylum seekers from obtaining work authorization after the 180-day waiting period has elapsed. For example, one named plaintiff in the lawsuit is a man from China who filed his asylum application in 2003, and he has been pursuing work authorization for years without success.
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