Consular Processing

2021-03-10 in Helpful Tips

Over the last 5 years, since 2012, we have processed over 100 consular visa cases on behalf our clients. Preparing the applications yourself or hiring less experienced lawyers can be too risky. In many instances, a simple mistake can be misinterpreted by the government as a fabrication resulting in either a “request for evidence” or a denial of the case entirely. We know the process well and can use our experience and knowledge to assist you in preparing your case to ensure that it gets done right the first time without any delays.

“Provisional” Waivers are still available. The “provisional” waivers are available to those who entered the U.S. illegally and who also have a U.S. citizen spouse who can sponsor them. You cannot, however, have any criminal convictions or immigration violations in your background; persons with those can still get a visa, but they would be subject to conventional waiver processing. A “provisional” waiver, like conventional waiver processing, requires that you leave the U.S. to get your immigrant visa, but you need only leave the U.S. for as little as a few days; conventional waiver processing, on the other hand, can take as long as one (1) year remaining outside the U.S. awaiting approval. In addition, with a “provisional” waiver, you are provided notice before you leave the U.S. whether or not your application was granted. If you qualify for the “provisional” waiver program, we encourage you to see us as soon as practicable.

Consular Processing: An Overview

2021-03-10 in Helpful Tips

If you entered the United States illegally and wish to obtain status, you may likely be required to obtain an Immigrant Visa from the consulate in your home country. Under current law, a person who has entered the United States illegally, or “without inspection,” will not be granted any benefit by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) and, therefore, would be required to return to his or her home country in order to obtain an immigrant visa. An exception is if a family member filed a petition or employer filed a labor certification prior to April 30, 2001. In this case – even if it is not the same person or employer – the person could qualify for the pre-2001 amnesty and would be able to adjust status with the payment of a $1,000 fine, despite having entered the United States without inspection.

Seeking consular processing requires filing an immigrant petition by your sponsoring relative and filing a waiver for your illegal presence. A “waiver” is your request for USCIS to forgive you for entering the United States illegally and remaining here illegally. It requires that your sponsoring relative demonstrate “extreme hardship” to him or her resulting from your inability to return to the United States with an immigrant visa. As can be seen, returning to your home country carries with it the risk that USCIS would not find that there is enough hardship entitling you to a waiver, resulting in having to remain behind. Successive applications are permitted and, therefore, if the initial application is denied, chances increase with a subsequent application.

Free Consultations: 1st Saturday of each month

2021-03-10 in Helpful Tips

From 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on the first Saturday of each month, holidays excepted, our team of attorneys will make themselves available in private consultations to answer any immigration questions free of charge. People are reminded to bring all immigration related documents as well as all documents relating to any criminal matters. We will render an opinion on the options on the case as well as cost for our firm to handle the case.

Persons will be seen on a “first come, first served” basis. In the event you do not wish to wait or cannot attend on a Saturday you may set up a paid consultation during the week. We do not charge a consultation fee for a pending Immigration Court cases in which you have not yet hired an attorney and you have a pending court date. In other cases we charge a reasonable fee for a consultation and will take the time to understand the case so that we can present the available options.

Our attorneys concentrate in immigration and criminal related matters. We usually can find an option where other less experienced attorneys cannot.

Immigrant Visa: Legal Permanent Resident

2021-03-10 in Helpful Tips

A Legal Permanent Resident (“LPR”), also known as a “Green Card” holder, is the status conferred on someone who wishes to make the United States their permanent home and has someone to sponsor him or her, does not have serious criminal convictions, nor has any serious immigration violations. It is a necessary first step in the process of becoming a U.S. citizen. We have processed thousands of these types of applications for our clients.

The usual way to obtain residency, not including business-related visas, is for a family member to sponsor you. The regulations divide family members into groups, some with quotas and others without. Those without quotas are called “immediate” family members, who are being petitioned by a U.S. citizen only: 1) spouses; 2) children (over the age of 21) on behalf of parents; and 3) parents on behalf of children, under the age of 21, who are unmarried. Otherwise, there are quotas, and because of those quotas, there are waiting times for the following categories: 1) unmarried sons and daughters (over the age of 21) of U.S. citizens; 2) spouses and children of permanent residents; 3) unmarried sons and daughters of permanent residents; 4) married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens; 5) brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens.

Unless you fit into one of these categories, you will not qualify for a family based visa. With respect to those who may have entered the U.S. illegally, you still have the option to gain permanent residency. You would be required to leave the U.S., get a visa at your home consulate, and then return on the visa (unless you qualify for the 2001 amnesty). This process is called “consular processing.” There are waivers available for those who can demonstrate hardship to their spouses (or parents) who are residents or citizens.

Citizenship

2021-03-10 in Helpful Tips

Naturalization

We have assisted hundreds of clients to obtain Naturalization. You may consider doing it on your own but, in some instances, it makes sense to hire a lawyer if you wish to make the process easier for yourself or if you have some issues surrounding an arrest or left the United States longer than you should have, i.e., over 6 months. It is also the case that simple mistakes on the forms can cause delays.

The main issues to be aware of in relation to applying for naturalization are: (1) arrests for any criminal matter; (2) if you left the United States for longer than 6 months; (3) paying federal income tax; (4) paying child-support; and (5) registering for selective service.

US Naturalization Process: An Overview

2021-03-10 in Helpful Tips

US Citizenship

Citizenship is conferred on someone who has been a Legal Permanent Resident for five (5) years, been a person of “good moral character” and is over the age of 18. If a person is under the age of 18, they may become automatically naturalized if they have at least one U.S. citizen parent. In the event that you obtained your LPR status through marriage, however, you need to only wait the three (3) years. And, the two (2) years “conditional legal permanent residency” counts toward the three (3) years.

The citizenship application includes submitting form N-400 (Application for Naturalization), copy of your green card, passport style photos, the required fee, and in some cases, certain supporting documents as well. Anytime within one month of the submission of your application, you will be asked to be fingerprinted for purposes of a criminal background check. The first notice that USCIS will send is the receipt notice, indicating that they received ans accepted your application for filing. A few weeks (2-3) after this, you will receive a fingerprint appointment indicating the date and time for your fingerprints to be taken. Next notice will be the interview notice. All notices are entitled Form I-797C, Notice of Action. Interview times have varied from as little as 5 months to 2 years after the filing of the application, but USCIS provides waiting times on its website. See, www.uscis.gov.

When you appear at your interview, you will be given a U.S. Citizenship examination which tests your knowledge of the English language and the U.S. government and history. You must pass this test to be eligible. Certain applicants have different English and civics testing requirements based on their age and length of lawful permanent residence at the time of filing. If you are over 50 years of age and have lived in the United States as a lawful permanent resident for periods totaling at least 20 years, or if you are 55 years of age and have lived in the United States as a lawful permanent resident for periods totaling at least 15 years, you do not have to take the English test, but you do have to take the civics test in the language of your choice. If you are over 65 years of age and have lived in the United States as a lawful permanent resident for periods totaling at least 20 years, you do not have to take the English test, but you do have to take a simpler version of the civics test in the language of your choice.

If you are in the military and are interested in becoming a U.S. Citizen, please see the M-599, Naturalization Information for Military guide on the USCIS website.

Benefits

After your swearing-in ceremony, you are provided a certificate of citizenship which cannot be taken away, except where USCIS asserts that you obtained it by fraud. You hold the same rights as any other U.S. citizen. Therefore, you cannot lose your citizenship if you leave the United States for any extended period of time nor be deported if you commit a crime. And, lastly, you may begin to sponsor other relatives as Legal Permanent Residence, which is the basis for faster applications for any particular beneficiary.

Denial & Appeals

Usually, USCIS provides you written notice of your denial, states the reasons, and provides instructions on how and where to appeal. Your appeal is initially submitted to the USCIS itself. In the event that USCIS denies your appeal, you may also appeal to the Federal District Court in the circuit in which you live.

New Illinois Law Offers Immigrants Opportunity to Void Marijuana Convictions

2021-03-05 in Helpful Tips

Effective January 1, 2020, recreational use of marijuana in Illinois becomes legal.

However, under Federal Immigration laws, its use is still prohibited. Although Illinois law does not expressly provide relief for non-citizens, a relatively unspoken provision provides a notable benefit for those non-citizens who have a criminal record of disqualification for marijuana. This short blog post will first discuss what the requirements are in pursuit of any benefits, such as legal permanent residence or United States Citizenship and Immigration (“USCIS”) in relation to the use of marijuana and, second, how the new Illinois law opens the door to overturn all marijuana disqualification convictions,

Relevant Federal Laws Regarding Possession of Marijuana.

Under federal law, possession of marijuana remains illegal. Under Title 21, Chapter 841, federal statute simply states the following:
(a) Unlawful acts
Except as authorized by this subchapter, it will be illegal for any person willfully or intentionally:
(1) manufacture, distribute or dispense, or possess with the intent to manufacture, distribute or dispense, a controlled substance;
(21 USC§841) (West, 2019). Marijuana, or “cannabis,” is considered a “controlled substance” under Annex I of the Act. 21 CFR 1308.11 (d) (23).
Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”), possession of marijuana is a disqualifying offense for those seeking permanent residence and for those seeking citizenship. For those seeking permanent residency, not just a conviction, but also any “admission” to the use of marijuana could result in a denial. Similarly, for those seeking citizenship, not just a conviction, but also any “admission” could result in being denied citizenship for not having “good moral character” under the INA.
Legalization of possession of marijuana, New Illinois Law PA 101-27 (ef. 6-25-19). Illinois prosecutors do not make a distinction between those who are citizens and non-citizens and therefore it is unlikely that anyone, whether a citizen or not, will receive a “conviction” for possession of marijuana in Illinois as long as they are under the age of 30. grams for Illinois residents, and less than 15 grams for non-Illinois residents. It is also worth noting that not all use of marijuana is legal: (a) it must not be smoked in public, (b) if it is transported in a vehicle, it must be inaccessible during transport, that is, in the trunk and in a sealed container, and (c) one cannot be under the influence while driving.
The problem for non-citizens is that, for any arrest, USCIS often requests a copy of the police report, even if there was no conviction. The USCIS may require an explanation of what happened during the arrest, usually looking for clues as to whether there was violence, drugs, or weapons. If USCIS sees in the police report that marijuana was involved and, in the interview, the non-citizen admits to the USCIS officer using marijuana, even though he was never charged and convicted of it, it would be a basis for denying relief and, It depends on the circumstances, they put the non-citizen in deportation proceedings. Therefore, it is advisable to retain an attorney for any application for permanent residence or naturalization when there is a marijuana arrest, despite the recent change in Illinois law.
Time to begin Post Conviction Procedures, PA 101-27.
Under the new Illinois law, those with marijuana possession convictions for possession under Section 4 or Section 5 of the Cannabis Control Act, can attempt to vacate their convictions, apparently regardless of the date of conviction. The law states very simply:
Anyone can file a motion to vacate and expunge a conviction for a misdemeanor or class 4 felony violation of Section 4 or Section 5 of the Cannabis Control Act.
20 ILCS 2630 / 5.2 (i) (3). PA 101-27. This provision not only allows for the voiding of convictions for possession, but also convictions for surrender under Section 5 of the Cannabis Control Act. It is important for non-citizens to understand that expungement is insufficient under federal immigration law – a full conviction expungement meeting the Board of Immigration Appeals requirements is required to fully expunge any convictions, including convictions for controlled substances for marijuana possession and / or surrender. Despite the difficulty of meeting these requirements, the most difficult requirement we have encountered is that the person has allowed more than three (3) years to pass from the date of conviction, which subjects the petition to immediate dismissal in criminal court. Now, however, the new Illinois legalization law has started again for criminal judges to review and overturn these convictions. If you are a non-citizen who has a conviction for possession or delivery of marijuana in your past, now is the time to consult with an attorney if you may qualify to have the conviction dismissed and proceed to apply for permanent residence or citizenship with USCIS. Depending on your circumstances, you may have little time to do this, but in most cases it would be around 2 years, until the end of 2021. If you are a non-citizen who has a conviction for possession or delivery of marijuana in your past, now is the time to consult with an attorney if you may qualify to have the conviction dismissed and proceed to apply for permanent residence or citizenship with USCIS. Depending on your circumstances, you may have little time to do this, but in most cases it would be around 2 years, until the end of 2021. If you are a non-citizen who has a conviction for possession or delivery of marijuana in your past, now is the time to consult with an attorney if you may qualify to have the conviction dismissed and proceed to apply for permanent residence or citizenship with USCIS. Depending on your circumstances, you may have little time to do this, but in most cases it would be around 2 years, until the end of 2021.

The Ineptitude and Disorganization of the Trump Administration Leads to a Win for DACA Recipients.

2021-03-05 in Helpful Tips
Review of the federal district court decision today, December 8, 2020, and the U.S. Supreme Court decision of June 18, 2020, demonstrate that, even though the Trump Administration likely had the authority to rescind DACA, through plain ineptitude failed to accomplish its policy of curtailing immigration to the United States. It’s first mistake was to fail to state adequate reasons under the Administrative Procedure Act for the rescission; then, afterwards, due to a revolving door of secretaries for the Department of Homeland Security, failed to lawfully appoint its secretary to issue a new decision rescinding DACA.
December 8, 2020 – Today
A New York Federal Judge, entered an order requiring the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to re-instate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
A short review of the history of the litigation is that first, back in 2017, then Secretary of Homeland Security, Elaine Duke, did not adequately set forth her reasons for terminating the DACA program, contrary to administrative law and procedure. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 18, 2020 that this was “arbitrary and capricious.” In July, 2020, then Acting Secretary Chad Wolf issued a memorandum rescinding DACA in compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s order. However, the Federal District Court today ruled that Secretary Wolf never had authority to issue the memorandum in the first place because he was never appointed as required by administrative law. The Government Accountability Office made a finding that upon Kirstjen Nielsen’s resignation in 2019 the Acting Secretary after her was never designated according to the “rules of succession” and because the wrong official assumed the role of Acting Secretary after her, all subsequent appointments were invalid. There have been an unprecedented number of acting secretaries appointed to the Department of Homeland Security since Trump removed Obama’s appointee, Jeh Johnson, on January 17, 2017, totaling five (5).

DACA 2020 Applications Now Open

2021-03-05 in Helpful Tips
USCIS announced on December 7, 2020 that it is accepting DACA applications again. Call 312-704-8000 for a free consultation with Chicago Immigration Advocates to ensure you meet the requirements. We can file your application promptly.

Basic DACA Requirements

You need to meet the following main requirements for DACA in 2020: (1) you entered the United States prior to your 16th birthday, (2) you were born on or after June 16, 1981, and (3) you completed high school. If you did not complete high school, you must have a GED equivalent degree or currently be enrolled in a GED program. Also, you cannot have serious criminal convictions, such as a felony or three or more misdemeanors. The government filing fee is $495.
Besides some of the more basic requirements for DACA stated above, you must have resided in the United States since June 15, 2007. You also must have been present in the United States on June 15, 2012. Lastly, you must have not had legal status on June 15, 2012. For example, this means that you were not a legal permanent resident at the time and since lost your status.

Benefits of DACA 2020

DACA provides relief from removal (if in immigration proceedings) and work authorization. DACA also permits you to leave the U.S. on advance parole if there is an emergency situation in your home country. Work authorization entitles a DACA recipient to apply for a social security number. When you obtain a social security number, you can work legally, apply to enroll in school, apply for loans, etc.

Impact of Criminal Convictions

An arrest is not a negative factor unless you were convicted. If you have any criminal convictions, however, it is advisable to speak with us to ensure you meet the criminal requirements for DACA.

Call Now or Use Our New Booking Feature

We will discuss any your options you may have. Call 312-704-8000 now to set up a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.

Nueva Ley de Marijuana en Illinois

2020-02-21 in Helpful Tips

Nueva Ley en Illinois Ofrece la Opportunidad a los Inmigrantes Anular Cualquier Condenas que Tengan por Marijuana.

En Illinois, a partir del 1 de Enero de 2020, el uso recreativo de la marihuana se convierte legal. Sin embargo, según las leyes Federales de Inmigración, su uso sigue estando prohibido. A pesar de que la ley de Illinois no proporciona expresamente alivio para los no ciudadanos, una disposición relativamente no mencionada proporciona un beneficio notable para aquellos no ciudadanos que tienen antecedentes penales de descalificación por marihuana. Este breve artículo de blog discutirá, en primer lugar, cuáles son los requisitos en la búsqueda de cualquier beneficio, como la residencia legal permanente o la Ciudadania e Inmigración de los Estados Unidos (“USCIS”) en relación con el uso de marihuana y, en segundo lugar, cómo la nueva ley de Illinois abre la puerta para anular todas las condenas por inhabilitación a la marihuana, ya sea por posesión o entrega.

     Leyes federales pertinentes sobre la posesión de marihuana. Según la ley federal, la posesión de marihuana sigue siendo ilegal. Bajo el Título 21, Capítulo 841, el estatuto federal simplemente establece lo siguiente:

(a) Actos ilícitos

Excepto segun lo autorizado por este subcapítulo, será ilegal para cualquier persona adrede  o intencionalmente:

(1) fabricar, distribuir o dispensar, o poseer con la intención de fabricar, distribuir o dispensar, una sustancia controlada;

(21 U.S.C.§841) (West, 2019). La marihuana, o “cannabis”, se considera una “sustancia controlada” según el anexo I de la Ley. 21 C.F.R. 1308.11 (d) (23).

Según la Ley de Inmigración y Nacionalidad (“INA”), la posesión de marihuana es un delito descalificador para quienes buscan la residencia permanente y para quienes buscan la ciudadania. Para aquellos que buscan la residencia permanente, no solo una condena, sino también cualquier “admisión” al uso de marihuana podría resultar en una negación. Del mismo modo, para aquellos que buscan la ciudadania, no solo una convicción, sino también cualquier “admisión” podría dar lugar a que se les niegue la ciudadania por no tener un “buen carácter moral” en virtud del INA.

Legalización de la posesión de marihuana, Nueva Ley de Illinois P.A. 101-27 (ef. 6-25-19). Los fiscales de Illinois no hacen una distinción entre aquellos que son ciudadanos y no ciudadanos y por lo tanto, es poco probable que alguien, ya sea ciudadano o no, reciba una “condena” por posesión de marihuana en Illinois siempre que sea menor de 30 gramos para los residentes de Illinois, y menos de 15 gramos para los no residentes de Illinois. También vale la pena señalar que no todo uso de marihuana es legal: (a) no se debe fumar en público, (b) si se transporta en un vehículo, debe ser inaccesible durante el transporte, es decir, en el maletero y en un contenedor sellado, y (c) uno no puede estar bajo la influencia mientras conduce.

El problema para los no ciudadanos es que, por cualquier arresto, USCIS muchas veces solicita una copia del informe policial, incluso si no hubo condena. El USCIS puede requerir una explicación de lo que sucedió durante el arresto, generalmente buscando pistas sobre si hubo violencia, drogas o armas. Si USCIS ve en el informe policial que la marihuana estaba involucrada y, en la entrevista, el no ciudadano admite al oficial de USCIS el uso de la marihuana, aunque nunca fue acusado y condenado por ello, sería una base para negar el alivio y, depende de las circunstancias, pongan al no ciudadano en un proceso de deportación. Por lo tanto, es aconsejable contratar un abogado para cualquier solicitud de residencia permanente o naturalización cuando haya un arresto por marihuana, a pesar del cambio reciente en la ley de Illinois.

Es hora de comenzar los procedimientos posteriores a la condena, P.A. 101-27. Bajo la nueva ley de Illinois, aquellos con condenas por posesión de marihuana por posesión bajo la Sección 4 o la Sección 5 de la Ley de Control de Cannabis, pueden intentar desalojar sus condenas, aparentemente independientemente de la fecha de la condena. La ley establece muy simplemente:

Cualquier persona puede presentar una moción para desalojar y eliminar una condena por un delito menor o una violación de clase 4 grave de la Sección 4 o la Sección 5 de la Ley de Control de Cannabis.                                                                                                             

20 ILCS 2630 / 5.2 (i) (3). P.A. 101-27. Esta disposición no solo permite la anulacion de las condenas por posesión, sino también las condenas por entrega bajo la Sección 5 de la Ley de Control de Cannabis. Es importante que los no ciudadanos comprendan que la eliminación de antecedentes penales es insuficiente según la ley federal de inmigración: se requiere una anulacion completa de la condena que cumpla con los requisitos de la Junta de Apelaciones de Inmigración para borrar por completo cualquier condena, incluidas las condenas por sustancias controladas por marihuana posesión y / o entrega. A pesar de la dificultad para cumplir con estos requisitos, el requisito más difícil que hemos encontrado es que la persona ha permitido que pasen más de tres (3) años a partir de la fecha de la condena, lo que somete la petición a un despido inmediato en el tribunal penal. Ahora, sin embargo, la nueva ley de legalización de Illinois ha comenzado nuevamente para que los jueces criminales revisen y anulen estas condenas. Si usted es un no ciudadano que tiene una condena por posesión o entrega de marihuana en su pasado, ahora es el momento de consultar con un abogado si puede calificar para desestimar la condena y proceder a solicitar la residencia permanente o la ciudadania con USCIS. Dependiendo de sus circunstancias, es posible que tenga poco tiempo para hacerlo, pero en la mayoría de los casos serían unos 2 años, hasta finales de 2021.