• U.S. Employers Thinking of Hiring Foreign Nationals for 2016: Get Ready for More of the Same

    Jan 5 • SMA Immigration Law Frim Featured, US Immigration News • 1858 Views

    The H-1B Visa Process

    By Steve Maggi, Esq.

    {4:42 minutes to read} Starting April 1, 2016, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin accepting H-1B visa petitions, used by U.S. employers to hire skilled professionals from other countries. If lessons are to be learned from the past few years, employers who are serious about hiring a foreign national should start planning their strategy and preparing their paperwork immediately.

    Since there has been no progress on comprehensive immigration reform, advocates are expecting the same scenario to play out as last year: Continue Reading

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  • Celebrating 200 Years of UK/US Trade and Investment

    Dec 1 • SMA Immigration Law Frim Featured, US Immigration News • 1827 Views

    {3:48 minutes to read} In the wake of of the War of 1812, the United Kingdom and the United States signed 2 treaties, in 1815:

    — Treaty Investor Treaty

    — Treaty Trader Treaty

    Essentially, what that did was give individuals with U.K. citizenship the opportunity to procure visas under the categories of E-1, which is a treaty trader, or E-2, which is a treaty investor. What does this mean?

    — U.K. nationals can get 5 years to run a business in the U.S. with unlimited renewals based on trade or investment, as long as the business is active and jobs are created and/or maintained.

    These were the first investment and trade treaties signed by the U.S. with any country, and so SMA decided to celebrate the bicentennial by presenting in London on these visas, in conjunction with U.K. Immigration firm Nabas International Lawyers, on October 26. Continue Reading

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  • Visa Options for U.S. Real Estate Professionals Looking to Expand Foreign Clientele

    Nov 23 • SMA Immigration Law Frim Featured, US Immigration News • 2306 Views

    Please find a brief guide to visa options for U.S. real estate professionals looking to expand their foreign clientele here. This guide comes from several years of attending and presenting at real estate conferences and the questions that have been raised by real estate professionals. Continue Reading

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  • Nepal TPS vs Asylum

    Nepal TPS vs Asylum

    Oct 20 • SMA Immigration Law Frim Featured, US Immigration News • 3306 Views

    {4.06 minutes to read} On June 24, 2015, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security designated Nepal as a country qualifying for Temporary Protected Status (commonly referred to as “TPS”). Many individuals from Nepal are now faced with the question of whether or not to apply for TPS or asylum. To help assist those potentially facing this dilemma, I want to provide a brief explanation regarding the difference between the two benefits.

    Temporary Protected Status is a temporary immigration benefit that allows qualifying nationals from a designated country the right to remain in the United States legally until a specific date. TPS also authorizes qualifying nationals to obtain a work permit for the duration of their authorized stay. Some people may also qualify to receive authorization from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to leave the United States, travel to Nepal, and then re-enter the United States. Continue Reading

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  • Removal of Conditions: Filing a Waiver

    Removing Conditions on a Green Card in Cases of Abandonment or Abuse

    Oct 8 • SMA Immigration Law Frim Featured, US Immigration News • 1947 Views

    {5:24 minutes to read} In the first Removal of Conditions article, we discussed the steps and possible pitfalls of filing a joint I-751. But what happens if you are not able to file jointly with your spouse? This will require you to file a waiver.

    The first condition for a waiver is that the marriage was in good faith. Good faith marriage means that it’s a real marriage and not a marriage that was entered into for the purposes of procuring an immigration benefit. The way to prove good faith marriage is to show evidence and paperwork that the couple is together. What the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) focuses on is an intent to build a life together, best demonstrated by merging of financial assets and children of the marriage. As part of the “good faith” evidence, applicants should include affidavits from people who knew the couple, as well as pictures, letters, etc. that would prove the couple was actually married in good faith. Continue Reading

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  • The Final Immigration Hurdle: Filing for Removal of Conditions on a Spousal Application for a Green Card

    The Final Immigration Hurdle: Filing for Removal of Conditions on a Spousal Application for a Green Card

    Sep 23 • SMA Immigration Law Frim Featured, US Immigration News • 1665 Views

    What happens when couples come face-to-face with the final immigration hurdle? Many people think that, once the original petition for an immigrant spouse (I-130) is approved, the application for removal of conditions is a mere formality. In fact, this is where United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will scrutinize the application the most. Removal of conditions allows the foreign spouse to transition from the 2-year Conditional Green Card to a 10-year Green Card.¹ Most spouses at this time will be filing a joint I-751 in the 90 days preceding the second anniversary of their green card approval (21 months after it was approved). It is imperative that the spouses file on time; if they do not, the foreign national spouse will fall out of status and will be put into removal proceedings (aka deportation!).² Continue Reading

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  • Mission: Securing Asylum for Tibetan Nationals

    Mission: Securing Asylum for Tibetan Nationals

    Sep 17 • SMA Immigration Law Frim Featured, US Immigration News • 2224 Views

    {3:48 minutes to read} In our recent blog regarding Steve’s trip to Tibet in May of this year, he noted the oppressive conditions under which Tibetans have been suffering since the PRC invaded in 1951. The continued persecution of the Tibetan people by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has also been well-documented by human rights advocacy groups and the United States Department of State. As a result, it is possible for many Tibetans now in the United States or traveling to the U.S. to qualify for asylum protection under the American immigration laws. It is our aim at SMA to help as many of those people as we can. Continue Reading

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  • The final immigration hurdle: filing for removal of conditions on a spousal application for a green card.

    Sep 15 • america immigration, SMA Immigration Law Frim Featured, US Immigration News • 1543 Views

    What happens when couples come face-to-face with the final immigration hurdle? Many people think that once the original petition for an immigrant spouse (I-130) is approved the application for removal of conditions is a mere formality. In fact, this is where USCIS will scrutinize the application the most. Removal of conditions allows the foreign spouse to transition from the 2-year Conditional Green Card to a 10-year Green Card.[1] Most spouses at this time will be filing a joint I-751 in the 90 days preceding the second anniversary of their green card approval (21 months after it was approved). It is imperative that the spouses file on time: if they do not, the foreign national spouse will fall out of status and will be put into removal proceedings (aka deportation!).[2]

    Should a couple miss the deadline, it is still possible that USCIS still accept a late-filed petition if there is a statement included with the petition stating good cause or extenuating circumstances.[3] If you and your spouse find yourself in this situation, please contact a reputable attorney immediately, and they will be able to advise you as to your best course of action. If the application is received on time, the foreign spouse’s status will be extended while the application is being reviewed. Together with the I-751 form, the couple must include proof of a bona fide (good faith) marriage. The preparation of a complete and robust application is essential to ensure that the foreign spouse is approved and reduce stress throughout the process. The evidence included with the application should show:

    • Joint ownership of property;
    • A lease showing joint tenancy;
    • Documentation showing the comingling of financial resources, such as joint bank accounts, both spouses’ names on bills,  joint health insurance coverage, and joint life insurance;
    • Birth certificates of children born of the marriage (if applicable);
    • Affidavits from third parties attesting to the bona fides of the marriage;
    • Any other documentation that the marriage was not entered into to evade the immigration laws of the United States (e.g. pictures of them attending lifecycle events or joint purchases of furniture).[4]

    From the moment the spouse receives their Conditional Green Card, spouses should be documenting their life together on paper as much as possible. In some cases, however, there may be financial restrictions or personal circumstances that prevent the couple from accumulating all of the suggested evidence (e.g. if the couple doesn’t purchase property, they can’t show joint ownership). When these circumstances arise the affidavits from the US Citizen or Permanent Resident spouse and third parties must be as detailed as possible establish that the marriage was entered into in good faith. To ensure that the application meets the required standard it is crucial to consult with an attorney who will be able to identify any weaknesses in the application which could lead to a Request for Evidence (this is a request by USCIS for additional evidence to prove the that the marriage was in fact entered into on a good faith basis because they are not satisfied by the evidence originally provided) or an eventual denial.

    Once the application is reviewed, USCIS may waive the interview requirement if they are satisfied by the presented evidence that marriage was not for the purpose of evading immigration law.[5] BOTH spouses will need attend the interview. If both spouses do not attend the interview then the foreign national spouse will lose their status and deportation proceedings will be brought against them. We understand that this process can be taxing on both spouses, and to make the process as easy and anxiety-free as possible, please consult with an attorney who will be able to guide you through these crucial final steps and ensure that USCIS is treating you fairly.

    If you have any questions regarding the removal of conditions process please contact our associate Lora Minicucci at lminicucci@smalawyers.com.  We are here to help.

    [1] 8 C.F.R. § 216.4(a)(1)

    [2] 8 C.F.R. § 216.4(a)(6)

    [3] 8 C.F.R. § 216.4(a)(6)

    [4] 8 C.F.R. § 216.4(a)(5)

    [5] 8 C.F.R. § 216.4(b)(1)

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  • The Beauty, Mystery & Anguish of Tibet Seen Firsthand

    The Beauty, Mystery & Anguish of Tibet Seen Firsthand

    Aug 18 • SMA Immigration Law Frim Featured, US Immigration News • 2354 Views

    {2:42 minutes to read}

    This spring, I realized a lifelong dream of visiting the sacred and ancient land of Tibet. As a mahayana buddhist, I always wanted to see the spiritual heartland of Tibetan buddhism. I flew to Beijing and took trains west, across China all the way to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, and then also to Shigatse, the second biggest city in the region. Having studied Chinese and Tibetan history in depth over the last quarter-century, I was not surprised by what I saw on my trip. That being said, it was still profoundly upsetting and shocking to witness the systematic oppression of the Tibetan people that is occurring in the supposedly “Autonomous Region of Tibet”. Continue Reading

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  • Big Changes Possibly in Store for the EB-5 Visa Program

    Big Changes Possibly in Store for the EB-5 Visa Program

    Aug 14 • SMA Immigration Law Frim Featured, US Immigration News • 1658 Views

    {5:24 minutes to read} Article by Kevin Dowling

    A significant portion of the visas issued under the EB-5 visa program have gone to investors who have invested using “Regional Centers.” The law which provides for Regional Centers was initially described as a “Pilot Program” when originally adopted in 2003, and has never been included in a permanent legislative provision. Instead, Congress has provided for renewals through temporary enactments, the latest of which expires this Sept. 30, 2015.

    In the past, Congress has reauthorized the Pilot Program without making substantive changes, but this year things may be different.  This expectation is due in part to the change of control in Congress. For example, the new Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee is Charles Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, who has not been on record as being such a strong supporter of the EB-5 visa program. Continue Reading

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