Practice Areas

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Family-Based

Family unity is a fundamental tenet of the U.S. immigration system and U.S. citizens and U.S. lawful permanent residents may petition for, or “sponsor,” certain close family members to become permanent residents. In all cases, the family relationship must be established through documentary evidence.

 

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Waivers

Foreign nationals may be inadmissible to the United States for a multitude of reasons, including health-related grounds, economic grounds, criminal grounds, moral grounds, violations of the Immigration and Nationality Act regarding entry or documentation, fraud or misrepresentations, security and related grounds, and other miscellaneous grounds. Waivers (pardons) of inadmissibility, however, are available to certain individuals based on familial relationships or for specific reasons.

 

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Removal (Deportation)

Micki has been representing clients in Immigration Court and in front of the Board of Immigration Appeals for over a decade. Individuals who are in the United States without valid nonimmigrant status or who have been involved in activities which may jeopardize their immigration status can be placed in removal proceedings.

 

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U Visas & VAWA Protections

The Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA) was passed by Congress in 1994 and contains immigration-related provisions to protect noncitizen battered spouses, children and parents. VAWA allows certain spouses and children of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPR) to apply by themselves, or “self-petition,” for permanent residency. Under VAWA, individuals suffering from domestic violence at the hands of their U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or parent can file for immigration status without the abuser knowing or assisting.

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Consular processing

“Consular Processing” refers to the adjudication of both non-immigrant and immigrant visas by U.S. consular officers posted abroad at U.S. Embassies and visa-processing Consulates around the world. In adjudicating visas, consular officers must make decisions concerning the visa applicants eligibility for the visas for which they are applying, and their admissibility to the United States under the relevant portions of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

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Naturalization matters

Under U.S. immigration law, there are three ways to obtain citizenship. Generally, persons born in the United States are considered to be U.S. citizens. In addition, under certain circumstances, persons can acquire or derive U.S. citizenship through their parents, and sometimes, even through their grandparents. Persons who satisfy the requirements of naturalization are eligible for citizenship. Naturalized citizens are granted all of the rights, privileges and responsibilities that citizenship entails.

 

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Family unity is a fundamental tenet of the U.S. immigration system and U.S. citizens and U.S. lawful permanent residents may petition for, or “sponsor,” certain close family members to become permanent residents. In all cases, the family relationship must be established through documentary evidence. If the required evidence of family relationship is unobtainable, such as a birth certificate or marriage certificate, substantial secondary evidence is necessary. Secondary evidence, including DNA testing, may also be required in certain cases where a birth certificate is issued many years after the actual birth. It is important to verify that you have all of the necessary documentation to establish the family relationship before filing the petition.

In most family-based preference categories, with the exception of spouses, children (under 21), and parents of adult U.S. citizens, there are long and growing waiting periods before the individual sponsored may become a permanent resident. Waiting periods are set for each family-based preference category according to country of birth and are released by the Department of State monthly in their publicly viewable “visa bulletin.” The family-based preference categories and requirements for each are set forth below. It is important to note that establishment of a place in line alone does not provide any legal status or right to remain in the United States, nor does it allow for employment authorization. Additionally, in most instances, and most notably in marriage cases, the family relationship must be maintained throughout the wait for lawful permanent resident status.

Most family-based visa petitions are initiated when the sponsoring relative files an immigrant visa petition, also known as a Form I-130, with the appropriate Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Service Center or U.S. Consulate abroad. The date of receipt of this petition by USCIS establishes the “priority date,” or place in line for an immigrant visa. Processing times for these petitions vary from several months or much longer depending on visa availability. When a petition is approved, and the “priority date” becomes current (i.e. after any applicable waiting line has passed), the sponsored individual may apply for an immigrant visa or, where eligible, apply for adjustment of status to obtain lawful permanent residence in the United States. An immigrant visa permits the individual to become a legal permanent resident (“green card” holder) after admission to the United States with the immigrant visa. It is important to note that filing an immigrant visa petition for a relative can make it more difficult for the sponsored individual to obtain a tourist, student, or certain other types of temporary visas or it may bring an individual here in the United States without authorization to the attention of the immigration authorities. Additionally, an individual must otherwise be eligible to obtain lawful permanent resident status in the United States or be eligible for a waiver of inadmissibility. An individual’s admissibility should also be thoroughly assessed before a visa petition is filed. As such, we recommend that immigration counsel be consulted before a visa petition is filed.

Waivers

Foreign nationals may be inadmissible to the United States for a multitude of reasons, including health-related grounds, economic grounds, criminal grounds, moral grounds, violations of the Immigration and Nationality Act regarding entry or documentation, fraud or misrepresentations, security and related grounds, and other miscellaneous grounds. Waivers (pardons) of inadmissibility, however, are available to certain individuals based on familial relationships or for specific reasons. These waivers may be obtained in removal proceedings before the Immigration Judge, through the Department of Homeland Security at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or Customs and Border Protection, or through the Department of State at a consulate abroad. They are available, under certain circumstances, to pardon or cure many grounds of inadmissibility, including the following: health-related grounds, certain crimes, including crimes of moral turpitude; fraud or willful misrepresentation; false claims to U.S. citizenship; smuggling; prior removals; unlawful presence; and, foreign residency requirement for J-1 visa holders.

Certain individuals, based on their status, are also eligible to seek waivers for a wide range of inadmissibility grounds. For example, refugees and asylees can seek a waiver for most grounds of inadmissibility with the exception of controlled-substance crimes, security and related grounds, or participation in Nazi persecution, torture or genocide. Individuals who seek relief under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) are eligible for number of waivers, including to waive the immigration violation of being present without admission or parole and domestic violence grounds under certain circumstances.

Removal (Deportation)

Micki has been representing clients in Immigration Court and in front of the Board of Immigration Appeals for over a decade. Individuals who are in the United States without valid nonimmigrant status or who have been involved in activities which may jeopardize their immigration status can be placed in removal proceedings.

This is the beginning of a process by which Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), attempts to remove an individual from the United States. Most individuals are allowed to challenge his or her removal before the Immigration Courts and before the Board of Immigration Appeals.

Additionally, in some instances, federal courts have jurisdiction to review decisions taken by the Board of Immigration Appeals affirming a removal order. Micki does not specialize in federal litigation.

U Visas & VAWA Protections

The Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA) was passed by Congress in 1994 and contains immigration-related provisions to protect noncitizen battered spouses, children and parents. VAWA allows certain spouses and children of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPR) to apply by themselves, or “self-petition,” for permanent residency. Under VAWA, individuals suffering from domestic violence at the hands of their U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or parent can file for immigration status without the abuser knowing or assisting. The objective of the law is to provide an opportunity to individuals who have been battered or subject to extreme cruelty to obtain permanent residency safely and independently of a harmful relationship.

An individual, regardless of gender, may be eligible for VAWA protection if he or she is: (1) the abused spouse of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident; (2) the parent of a child who has been abused by the U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse; or, (3) a child who has been abused by a U.S. citizen or permanent resident parent. Such individuals may be eligible to either self-petition for their lawful permanent residency by filing a Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-130) or through requesting that an Immigration Judge grant him or her what is known as cancellation of removal. If the individual was not married to his or her abuser, or if the abuser is not a lawful permanent resident or U.S. citizen, he or she may still qualify for protection under the U nonimmigrant visa category.

Normally, the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse will start the paperwork necessary to obtain his or her spouse’s LPR status by filing the I-130 Petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Once approved, an interview is scheduled for the couple and, if the paperwork is in order, the spouse is generally granted LPR status. However, in abusive relationships, the U.S. citizen or LPR sometimes uses his or her ability to control the immigration status of the spouse as another method of abuse. In order to protect such victims, VAWA permits them to petition for their residency without the consent or involvement of the abusive spouse. Additionally, battered spouses who have conditional permanent residency can have their conditional status removed before the two-year deadline for applying for permanent status by self-petitioning as well.

VAWA also permits cancellation of removal for those battered individuals who are in removal proceedings before the Immigration Judge. In order to be eligible for VAWA cancellation of removal, the individual must prove that he or she:

Has been battered or subject to extreme cruelty by a spouse who is or was a U.S. citizen or LPR;

Has been battered or subject to extreme cruelty by a parent who is or was a U.S. citizen or LPR;

Has been battered or subject to extreme cruelty by a U.S. citizen or LPR whom he or she intended to marry, but whose marriage is not legitimate because of the U.S. citizen or LPRs’ bigamy; or,

Is the parent of a child of a U.S. citizen or LPR and the child has been battered or subject to extreme cruelty by a parent who is or was a U.S. citizen or LPR.

Additionally, the individual must establish that he or she has three years continuous physical presence in the United States prior to filing the application, that he or she has no disqualifying criminal convictions and that removal would result in extreme hardship to him or herself and his or her child or parent(s). Finally, the individual must establish that good moral character. If the individual satisfies these criteria to the satisfaction of an Immigration Judge, he or she will be granted cancellation of removal and lawful permanent resident status.

U Visas

Victims of certain designated crimes in the United States who have consequently suffered physical or mental harm may be eligible for U visas. In order to qualify for a U visa, the individual must be willing to assist law enforcement officials in the investigation or prosecution of the underlying crime. Individuals who have been granted U visas may apply for permanent residency after three years of being in U visa status if they also meet certain requirements.

Consular processing

“Consular Processing” refers to the adjudication of both non-immigrant and immigrant visas by U.S. consular officers posted abroad at U.S. Embassies and visa-processing Consulates around the world. In adjudicating visas, consular officers must make decisions concerning the visa applicants eligibility for the visas for which they are applying, and their admissibility to the United States under the relevant portions of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The extraordinary authority the INA grants to consular officers to make decisions in cases involving highly complex questions of fact and law can lead to flawed visa decisions which can be difficult to challenge.

We assist individual clients who are having difficulty qualifying for visa issuance, as well as corporate clients experiencing difficulties in bringing in key personnel, by analyzing their cases, identifying the approaches most likely to result in visa issuance, and implementing a strategy to achieve the desired result. If clients have an acknowledged statutory basis of inadmissibility, we determine whether waiver relief is available and prepare cogent and persuasive interventions to maximize the likelihood of a favorable recommendation for relief from the adjudicating consular officer.

We assist clients applying for non-immigrant and immigrant visas, and have particular expertise in preparing and submitting for consular review thorough and well-documented applications. We do not practice business immigration law.
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Naturalization matters

Under U.S. immigration law, there are three ways to obtain citizenship. Generally, persons born in the United States are considered to be U.S. citizens. In addition, under certain circumstances, persons can acquire or derive U.S. citizenship through their parents, and sometimes, even though their grandparents. Persons who satisfy the requirements of naturalization are eligible for citizenship. Naturalized citizens are granted all of the rights, privileges, and responsibilities that citizenship entails.

Although there are exceptions, most applicants for naturalization must fulfill age, residence, physical presence, and good moral character requirements. Specifically, most naturalization applicants must have been a permanent resident and have maintained a residence in the United States continuously for five years since obtaining permanent resident status. Persons with permanent resident status living in marital union for three years with a U.S. citizen spouse are eligible for citizenship. Although overseas travel is permitted after applying for citizenship, a U.S. residence must be maintained between filing for naturalization and obtaining citizenship. There are special procedures which apply to military veterans and individuals currently serving in the U.S. Armed Forces and they may be exempt from some of the general requirements.

Most applicants must reside for three months in the state of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) district of filing. Additionally, most applicants must have been physically present in the United States at least half of the required time period prior to filing, i.e., either half of five or three years. Absences from the United States of over six months, but less than one year, during either the five or three year periods break the continuity of residence, unless the applicant can prove that residence was not abandoned. Absences of over one year break the period of required residence where the applicant does not obtain the USCIS’ approval of an application to preserve residence. Applications for citizenship may be filed no more than 90 days before the applicant’s fifth or third-anniversary date as a permanent resident.

All naturalization applicants must demonstrate good moral character. Good moral character is determined not only by an examination of the applicant’s police records but also general conduct. Some behavior, such as failure to pay child support or taxes, certain driving offenses, and criminal convictions can result in a finding that an applicant lacks the required good moral character for American citizenship.

Literacy, civics and the oath requirements

All applicants for naturalization are required to have a basic knowledge of English and of U.S. history and government. With the exception of certain persons over 50 years of age and individuals who are disabled, applicants are tested on their ability to read, write and speak words in English at an elementary level. They are also tested on the fundamentals of history and the principles of U.S. government. There are exceptions to these requirements based on age and disability considerations. Applicants who are over 50 years of age and who have been residing in the United States for at least 20 years as of the date of filing of the application can be tested in their native language. This exception also applies to applicants over 55 years of age and who have been living in the United States as lawful permanent residents for over 15 years. Applicants who are physically unable to comply with the English or civics requirements because of a physical or mental impairment may be excused from complying. Once an application for naturalization has been approved, an applicant is required to take an oath of allegiance to the United States. This requirement can be waived for those applicants who are physically, developmentally or mentally impaired.

Dual citizenship

If a person has two or more nationalities, he is considered a dual national. Most countries adhere to the principles of nationality by descent (jus sanguinis), nationality by birth within the territory (jus solis), or a combination of these two models. Thus, it is not uncommon for someone to hold citizenship in one country because he was born there and also from the country where his parents were born. Dual citizens in the United States are not required to choose one or the other of their nationalities unless specifically required by statute. Persons who obtain their citizenship through naturalization in the U.S. can also acquire dual citizenship, despite the requirement under U.S. law that they renounce all foreign allegiances.

The USCIS Naturalization Interview and Test

USCIS has published a video providing an overview of the naturalization process. The video is 16 minutes long and discusses eligibility requirements, application process, preliminary steps, naturalization interview, English tests, and U.S. history and government test. The video is available for viewing on the USCIS website.