- FAMILY BASED AND DIVERSITY VISA IMMIGRATION
- OTHER NONIMMIGRANT VISAS
- SPECIAL PROGRAMS
- VICTIMS OF VIOLENCE AND CRIMES
- U.S. CITIZENSHIP AND NATURALIZATION
FAMILY BASED AND DIVERSITY VISA IMMIGRATION Family-Based Immigration Family unification is a long-standing goal of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). United States citizens can petition to immigrate family members including their spouses, children, parents and siblings. Legal permanent residents, or green card holders, can petition to immigrate their spouses, children under 21 years, and unmarried sons and daughters. The Family Section at DMCA has successfully helped thousands of family members to immigrate. We have also successfully gotten subsequent petitions approved after a previous revocation or denial. Regularly, DMCA attorneys help clients who have been granted conditional residency status obtain permanent residency, even when the applicant is no longer married to the United States citizen or legal permanent resident spouse. Things can change in relationships, and our practice has extensive experience handling complex issues such as allegations of fraud or infidelity that arise in immigration situations. DMCA helps families, created by marriage or adoption, navigate the immigration process. Our attorneys have assisted clients with children from many different countries achieve favorable outcomes. In situations where a family member is unable to immigrate to the United States immediately, DMCA has successfully sought humanitarian parole.
OTHER NONIMMIGRANT VISAS: VISITOR, STUDENT AND EXCHANGE VISITOR VISAS Visitor Visas (B-1 and B-2) A “visitor” visa is a nonimmigrant visa to enter the United States temporarily for business (B-1 visa) or pleasure, tourism or medical treatment (B-2). Applicants for visitor visas usually apply at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate with jurisdiction over their place of permanent residence. Visitors from qualified countries coming to the U.S. for 90 days or less may be eligible to visit the U.S. without a visa if they meet the visa waiver program requirements. In order to be eligible for a visitor visa, applicants must show that the purpose of their trip is to enter the U.S. for business, pleasure, or medical treatment; that they plan to remain for a specific, limited period; evidence of funds to cover expenses in the United States; evidence of compelling ties abroad; and that they have a residence outside the U.S. as well as other binding ties that will insure their return abroad at the end of the visit. A domestic or personal employee may be eligible for a B-1 visitor visa to accompany or follow to join their employer where the employer is either a U.S. citizen having a permanent home or is stationed in a foreign country, who is visiting or is assigned to the U.S. temporarily, or who is a foreign national in the U.S. in a B, E, F, H, I, J, L, M, O, P, or Q nonimmigrant status. Student Visas An F-1 visa allows a foreign national to enter the U.S. as a student at an accredited college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, or other academic institution or in a language training program. M-1 visas allow foreign nationals to study in vocational or other nonacademic programs (other than language training). In addition, spouses or dependents holding other nonimmigrant visas are usually allowed to attend school while in the U.S. Eligibility for a F-1 or M-1 visa requires full-time enrollment in a qualified school that is approved by USCIS. The student must be proficient in English or enrolled in courses leading to English proficiency. Finally, the student must demonstrate sufficient financial support and strong ties to his/her home country. The spouse and unmarried children under 21 of a F-1 or M-1 visa holder are eligible to receive a F-2 or M-2 visa; dependents with F-2 or M-2 visas are never eligible to work in the U.S. J Visas—Exchange Visitor Visas The U.S. Department of State describes the goal of the Exchange Visitor Program as “promoting mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and the people of other countries by educational and cultural exchanges.” In order to apply for a J-1 nonimmigrant visa, the foreign national must first be accepted into an established exchange visitor program that is Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) certified. Among others, the exchange visitor category includes students, short-term scholars, teachers, camp counselors, au pairs, government visitors, professor and research scholars, and interns. A J-1 visa holder’s spouse and children under the age of 21 are eligible to come to the U.S. on J-2 visas. J-2 dependents are eligible to apply for work authorization or attend school.
Family Unity In 1986, President Reagan signed into law the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). This “amnesty” allowed many people who had been living in the in the U.S. since 1982, without lawful status, to gain temporary status and then permanent residency or to “legalize.” About 2.7 million people were able to get their green cards through “legalization.” The group was expanded through IMMACT 90, and later more people were able to “legalize” after a series of lawsuits (CSS, LULAC and Zambrano) when the Legal Immigration Family Equality (LIFE) Act was passed in 2000. Certain family members of people who “legalized” through one of the programs described above may be eligible for benefits under the Family Unity Program, which allows families to stay together in the U.S. while waiting to complete their permanent residency process. In order to qualify for benefits under Family Unity, you must show that you: 1. Entered the United States before May 5 or December 1, 1988, and have been residing continuously in the United States since that date; and 2. Were the spouse or unmarried child (under age 21) of a legalized alien as of May 5 or December 1, 1988, depending on how they legalized, and have been continuously eligible since that date for family-sponsored immigrant status based on your relationship to that person. In the alternative, you may demonstrate eligibility for benefits by showing that you: 1. Have a spouse or parent that applied for or has been granted adjustment of status under the LIFE Act; and 3. You entered the United States before December 1, 1988 and resided in the United States on that date. If you qualify for Family Unity benefits, you may be granted a work permit and may apply for a travel permit. The benefits are renewable every two years. It is important to continue to renew the benefits until you qualify for permanent residence through your legalized family member. Conviction for certain crimes may cause you to become ineligible to renew your Family Unity benefits, so it is also important to talk to an attorney if you are facing any criminal charges. Temporary Protected Status Sometimes wars or natural disasters make it unsafe for people in the U.S. to return to their country of origin. Over the years, the U.S. government has allowed foreign nationals to apply for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) when these situations occur. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) determines the grant of TPS and defines who, from that country, will be allowed to stay temporarily in the U.S. until the conditions return to normal. TPS is initially granted for a certain time period but may be extended. As of 2012, citizens or certain residents from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Syria may be eligible to apply for or extend TPS. TPS is not a legal status, but if you are granted TPS you may apply for a work permit and/or a travel permit. A person who has been granted TPS cannot be removed from the U.S. while you remain eligible for the program and may also pursue other nonimmigrant visas or permanent residence if you qualify independently. You may not be eligible for TPS if you have been convicted of a felony or two or more misdemeanors in the U.S., if you are found inadmissible to the U.S. for certain criminal and security-related reasons, if you fail to maintain continuous residence in the U.S., or if you fail to re-register for TPS without a good reason. It is important to keep these things in mind and consult with an attorney if you have any doubts about your eligibility since a denial of TPS benefits may result in removal from the U.S. Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) The Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA), passed in 1997, allowed certain citizens of Nicaragua, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala and former Soviet bloc countries to receive benefits and relief from deportation. If a NACARA beneficiary arrived as an asylum seeker before 1995 and resided in the U.S. for five years, he or she was allowed to apply for a green card. After October, 2000, NACARA also allowed qualified, battered family members of NACARA beneficiaries to apply for relief, regardless of their country of origin. Today, certain qualifying family members of NACARA recipients may also be able to adjust status. Qualifying family members are spouses and children, who were unmarried and under 21 years old when their parent received a green card through NACARA. In order apply for a green card as a NACARA family member, you must show: 1) that your qualifying family relationship existed at the time that the NACARA recipient received a green card; 2) seven years of continuous presence in the U.S.; 3) good moral character; and 4) that it would be a hardship to your spouse, parents or children, who are U.S. citizens or Legal Permanent Residents, if you were not given a green card. Humanitarian Parole Humanitarian parole is a very limited program that may allow a foreign national who does not qualify for a visa, or does not have time to apply for a visa, to come into the U.S. for an emergency situation or for humanitarian reasons. Humanitarian or emergency situations might include the death or terminal illness of a family member in the U.S. or your own emergency or serious medical condition that can only be treated in the U.S. Humanitarian parole may be applied for in one of two way, either by: 1) submitting a request ahead of time to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services; or 2) applying with Customs and Border Patrol at a U.S. port of entry. When humanitarian parole is granted, it is for a time period only long enough to allow you to deal with the emergency situation. When the length of the humanitarian parole ends, the foreign national must leave the U.S. when that period expires, or request a grant of re-parole if there is need to stay longer.
VICTIMS OF VIOLENCE AND CRIMES
Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and U and T Visas: Congress has passed several laws providing immigration benefits to those that have been victims of crimes who cooperate with law enforcement officials, have suffered from severe trafficking, or who have endured domestic violence by a family member. DMCA works compassionately and effectively with these clients. VAWA--The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) allows battered immigrants to petition for legal status in the United States without relying on abusive U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident spouses and parents or U.S. citizen children to sponsor their lawful permanent residency. For many immigrant victims of domestic violence (psychological or physical abuse), the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident family members who would sponsor their applications will threaten to withhold legal immigration sponsorship as a tool of abuse. U.S. immigration law allows certain non-citizen victims of abuse to petition for legal status without the cooperation of the abusing family member. This is referred to as the VAWA self-petition. U Visa--The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 provides that victims of certain crimes who have cooperated during the investigation or prosecution of that crime may be given a U Visa. The victim must have suffered psychological or physical harm as a result of the crime. The U Visa provides temporary legal status and work eligibility in the United States for up to 4 years. After 3 years of those 4 years, the victim can seek lawful permanent residency. T Visa--A T Visa gives temporary non-immigrant status to victims of severe forms of trafficking on the condition that they help law enforcement officials investigate and prosecute crimes related to human trafficking. For victims under the age of 18, the law does not require cooperation with police to obtain a T Visa. The T Visa provides temporary legal status and work eligibility in the United States for up to 4 years. After 3 years, the individual can seek permanent residency. DMCA has helped numerous clients who are beneficiaries of these laws. For example, DMCA recently helped a woman who had been married to her abusive legal permanent resident husband for over 7 years and he refused to petition for her. At DMCA, she was told about the VAWA self-petition, and she successfully petitioned for residency, allowing her to escape her abusive relationship. Another client was a victim of a robbery many years ago; she had cooperated with the police during the investigation of the robbery. The client, her husband, and their children were in the U.S. without legal status. DMCA successfully petitioned for a U visa for the client, her spouse and her children; they are all now in legal status. DMCA has worked with many individuals who are beneficiaries of these laws, and we believe it is imperative to seek immigration benefits for individuals who have suffered from unfortunate circumstances.
Rebellion, civil war, genocide… Persecuted individuals from all over the world see the United States as a beacon of hope. Every year, more than 10,000 people request asylum in the United States. DMCA has represented asylum-seeking clients from all parts of the world, including Chad, Syria, China, Kosovo, El Salvador, Colombia and Mexico. Approximately 30% of the asylum cases filed nationwide are approved by the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) Asylum Office or by Immigration Judges. For this reason, it is critical to have a qualified and ardent advocate to assist an asylum seeker in the United States. The attorneys at DMCA have extensive experience representing clients fleeing from their home countries. Each asylum case is approached with passion and sensitivity, citing relevant evidence and case law. To be eligible for asylum in the United States, you must show that you have been a victim of past persecution or have a well-founded fear of future persecution in your home country due to your race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Affirmatively seeking asylum For a foreign national currently in the United States but not in Immigration Court proceedings, filing for asylum “affirmatively” is done with the USCIS Asylum Office. This application must be made within one year of entry into the United States, although there are limited exceptions. Once the application is made, a local USCIS Application Support Center will schedule the applicant for biometrics (photo and fingerprints). Within months of filing, an interview with an USCIS Asylum Officer will also be scheduled. In Texas, the CIS Asylum Office is in Houston, where one of our DMCA offices is located. During the interview, the officer will review the application and ask questions about what happened in your home country and what you think would happen to if you returned. If the officer finds that you meet the asylum requirements, he or she can grant your case. An asylee may live and work legally in the United States and later apply for U.S. residency. Defensively seeking asylum When an Asylum Officer does not approve an application, the case is sent to the Immigration Court. In addition, foreign nationals, who have never applied for asylum before but end up in Immigration Court, may apply for asylum if they meet the requirements. At a hearing in Immigration Court, the Immigration Judge and the government attorney, as well as your DMCA attorney, will ask you questions about your fear of return to your country. A foreign national in immigration proceedings may also present evidence and expert testimony from a specialist who knows about the conditions in your home country. When the Immigration Judge grants asylum, the foreign national becomes an asylee authorized to live and work legally in the United States and later apply for U.S. residency.