Arlington, VA

This sponsored column is by James Montana, Esq. and Doran Shemin, Esq., practicing attorneys at Steelyard LLC, an immigration-focused law firm located in Arlington, Virginia. The legal information given here is general in nature. If you want legal advice, contact James for an appointment.

All too often, there are two kinds of law in this country — procedurally fair law for those who can afford it, and Kafka for those who can’t.

If you’re Felicity Huffman, you get fourteen days in prison for a federal felony and a New York Times story describing you as “by turns cheerful and stoic.” If you aren’t, your treatment won’t be as felicitous, and you won’t make the Times. This week, we want to share one of those stories with you.

Meet Mr. M., a gentleman who has been living in the United States since the 1990s.

Mr. M. has been living in the United States for most of this time under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program. You may remember reading about the TPS program in one of our previous articles. Mr. M. has five U.S. citizen children, ranging from ages three to 17. He is a homeowner and has been working for the same construction company for more than ten years.

In August 2019, his wife of fifteen years passed away. Mr. M. wanted to take his children to their home country to visit family. Based on his TPS status, Mr. M. applied for advance parole, or a travel permit, so that he could temporarily leave the United States and return with TPS. Note that applying for advance parole is completely legal: Mr. M. was following the rules.

Unfortunately, Mr. M. applied for advance parole with what is commonly referred to as a notario. Notarios are people who pretend to be lawyers and help immigrants file immigration paperwork. Pretending to be a lawyer is a crime.

Mr. M’s notario completed the paperwork for Mr. M’s travel permit and shipped it off. Unfortunately, due to the notario’s negligence, Mr. M’s original travel document was sent to the wrong address.

Mr. M. knew that his advance parole document had been approved, but he couldn’t find the original. Because he had worked with a notario rather than a real lawyer, Mr. M. had no legal recourse. But Mr. M. was resourceful, and tried to fix things on his own — he went to a local U.S. Department of Homeland Security office to ask how he could get his approved travel permit.

This, by the way, is where things really went off the rails.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security official printed a copy of the approved travel permit from their internal system. The employee gave it to Mr. M. and told him he could travel with the copy.  “It will be fine,” they said.

It was not going to be fine.

Mr. M. travelled to El Salvador with his children. At the end of their trip, he returned to the airport with his children and was barred from boarding the plane because you need an original Advance Parole document to return to the United States. (The stated reason for this requirement: security requires the original piece of greenish paper.)

Panic ensued. Mr. M’s family came to our office to see if we could help fix the problem.

We helped Mr. M. apply for a different type of travel permit. Four months later — that’s four months separated from his five US citizen children — the new travel permit was approved, but, in order to actually board a plane back to the U.S., Mr. M. had to attend an interview at the US Embassy.

He did. (In fairness, we have to say that the State Department behaved impeccably.) The embassy gave him his travel permit, which is a boarding foil in his passport. It will expire this first week of April.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 hit, and El Salvador is not letting anyone leave or enter. Mr. M. remains stranded, separated from his family.

This tragedy didn’t have to happen, Mr. M. should have relied on a licensed attorney. DHS shouldn’t have “helpfully” given him a useless copy of the travel permit. But these explicit mistakes are just part of the picture. It took four months to get a new travel permit, even with competent legal advice. There was no better way to do it.

As always, we also welcome any comments and will do our best to respond.

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This sponsored column is by James Montana, Esq. and Doran Shemin, Esq., practicing attorneys at Steelyard LLC, an immigration-focused law firm located in Arlington, Virginia. The legal information given here is general in nature. If you want legal advice, contact James for an appointment.

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find.

In order to understand how extraordinarily weird the world of immigration law is, consider the base case: an ordinary federal court. When a federal judge issues a decision, the losing party can appeal to the relevant Circuit Court of Appeals. The losing party at the Circuit Court of Appeals can petition for review at the Supreme Court.

Notice who isn’t mentioned in the layers of review. The Attorney General of the United States is the top law enforcement official in this country, but he doesn’t decide federal cases, nor does anyone think that he ought to. The powers of prosecution and adjudication are not, and ought not to be, united in a single office.

Now, consider a typical immigration case. When an immigration judge issues a decision, the losing party can appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals. The losing party at the Board of Immigration Appeals can appeal to the relevant Circuit Court of Appeals, and thence to the Supreme Court.

Sounds similar, right? But there’s one key difference. The Attorney General of the United States has the power to reverse the decisions of immigration judges and to overturn decisions of the Board of Immigration Appeals, all by himself.

In theory, immigration judges (and the judges of the Board of Immigration Appeals) are merely legates of the Attorney General, exercising judgment and discretion on his behalf, and so the AG has the undoubted right to correct his own subordinate officers. He can even pluck a case out of the docket without either of the parties asking him to do so. (Not even the Supreme Court can do that!)

In practice, the Attorney General has used the power to self-certify sparingly. For example, the Washington Post reports that the Clinton Administration only used the certification power three times during his administration, and it was used four times during the Obama Administration.

By our count, sixteen cases were certified to the Attorneys General during George W. Bush’s administration, with nine of those stemming from the Attorney General’s power to self-certify. Since 2017, the Trump Administration’s Attorneys General have already certified thirteen cases, all of which were done at the request of the Attorneys General themselves.

Retired immigration judge J. Traci Hong, who previously presided over cases the Arlington Immigration Court, told the Washington Post that, “The power goes back decades, but in other administrations, it was used very rarely — kind of a nuclear option… Certifying a case is a way for the attorney general to stamp his or her own views on immigration law — and it’s the quickest way to do it.”

Thus far, the Trump Administration’s Attorneys General have used this power more often than other Attorneys General in recent memory. These decisions swiftly, and many times drastically, change the law that applies to all the immigration courts and Department of Homeland Security offices in the country, leading immigration attorneys and their clients to sometimes change course in an instant.

These changes are frequently significant. Here are three from the Trump Administration which have rocked the world of immigration practice:

  1. In Matter of M-S-, the Attorney General held that an entire class of non-citizens were not eligible for bond, and therefore must be detained while their immigration cases are pending.
  2. In Matter of A-B-, the Attorney General held that requests for asylum by victims of domestic violence should, generally, be denied.
  3. In Matter of L-E-A-, the Attorney General held that “the family” is not a particular social group for purposes of asylum analysis, and so threats to an asylum-seeker’s family generally are not cognizable for asylum purposes.

We want to thank Amirite for his thoughtful question, and we want to say, as always, that we welcome any comments and will do our best to respond.

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This sponsored column is by James Montana, Esq. and Doran Shemin, Esq., practicing attorneys at Steelyard LLC, an immigration-focused law firm located in Arlington, Virginia. The legal information given here is general in nature. If you want legal advice, contact James for an appointment.

We frequently use this space to talk about changes in immigration law and the challenges that our clients face. Today, we want to go a bit off topic and spotlight a client who exemplifies why we love our work.

Ms. S., who was born in 1943, came to the United States legally in 1993 and has had a green card ever since. Ms. S. approached the Borromeo Legal Project, Inc., a nonprofit associated with St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Clarendon, to ask for help in applying for citizenship. The Borromeo Legal Project provides free English tutoring and pro bono legal representation to clients in need.

As part of our commitment to pro bono service, we agreed to represent Ms. S. in her naturalization application.

Ordinarily, applicants for U.S. citizenship have to be able to speak, read and write basic English. Ms. S. was exempt from this requirement, based on her age and her long residency in the United States. Ms. S. is also starting to have memory issues, which affected her ability to take the U.S. history and civics exam.

Despite her memory challenges, Ms. S. studied the civics and American history questions diligently with the help of her supportive family. When we met to prepare for her interview, she was extremely nervous about the civics test. We submitted a medical exemption request which, if accepted, would have exempted her from the U.S. history and civics test.

On the day of the interview, we found out that her medical exemption request was denied, which meant that she would have to pass the history and civics test with the aid of a translator. Luckily, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officer spoke Spanish and conducted the entire interview in Spanish with Ms. S.

The officer was friendly and did everything she could to help Ms. S. feel comfortable. Ms. S. passed the civics exam and everyone in the room, including the officer, clapped and congratulated her. Ms. S. was so relieved that she began to cry. The rest of the interview went off without a hitch.

Today, Ms. S. is taking her oath to become a United States Citizen.

We are proud to work with the Borromeo Legal Project, proud of our work with Ms. S., and glad to share her story with you. If you know someone who has a green card and would be a good candidate for pro bono citizenship representation, please let us know, either directly or by referring them to the Borromeo Legal Project application page.

As always, be in touch with us directly if you need legal advice. If you have other sorts of questions, comment below. We love comments and will reply to all we can.

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This sponsored column is by James Montana, Esq. and Doran Shemin, Esq., practicing attorneys at Steelyard LLC, an immigration-focused law firm located in Arlington, Virginia. The legal information given here is general in nature. If you want legal advice, contact James for an appointment.

As of Monday, February 24, 2020, most green card applicants will need to clear an entirely new, extraordinarily complex hurdle: the Form I-944, Declaration of Self-Sufficiency.

Our goal, in this brief article, is to provide readers with an overview of what the Trump Administration is demanding of green card applicants going forward. We encourage our U.S. citizen readers to imagine doing this for themselves.

Tax Return Transcripts

Previously, green card applicants were required to provide tax documentation in a form familiar to most Americans — mostly commonly a copy of Form 1040, plus Form W-2. This will no longer suffice. Now, green card applicants must provide tax return transcripts, which are produced by the IRS. Tax return transcripts are, in theory, available online. In practice, obtaining a tax return transcript online can be quite difficult, and so many people will need to file paper applications and wait for the IRS to answer.

If you’re applying for a green card, you’ll need a tax return transcript for yourself, plus a separate tax return transcript for each and every member of your household who filed a separate tax return.

Can’t figure out how to get tax return transcripts? Find an accountant, and get out your checkbook.

Household Assets and Resources

You’ll need to provide the net value of real estate — so, you had better dig up the deed and a recent appraisal by a licensed appraiser. Don’t have a recent appraisal? Get out your checkbook.

You’ll need to provide checking and savings account statements for the past twelve months. Yes, all of them. Enjoy your trip to the bank or, if you switched banks in the past year, to several banks.

If you have investments, you’ll need to provide statements showing their net cash value. This includes retirement investments, which are tallied separately. Can’t figure out the net cash value of liquidating your traditional IRA or 401(k)? Remember, you’ll need to calculate taxes and early withdrawal fees, so don’t leap to conclusions. Probably safest to find an accountant, and get out your checkbook.

Liabilities or Debts

You’ll need to provide documentation for each and every liability in your financial picture, including mortgages, car loans, child support, alimony, credit card debt and tax bills.

Having fun yet?

Credit Report

You’ll need to get a credit report. Did you freeze your credit after the recent Equifax scandal? Too bad, you’ll have to unfreeze it. If there are any errors in your credit report (and there frequently are), provide evidence that you’ve disputed the errors and that the error is under investigation.

If you don’t have a credit score, you’ll need to provide evidence of continued payment of bills. We have no idea what that means in practice.

Read More

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This sponsored column is by James Montana, Esq. and Doran Shemin, Esq., practicing attorneys at Steelyard LLC, an immigration-focused law firm located in Arlington, Virginia. The legal information given here is general in nature. If you want legal advice, contact James for an appointment.

First, it, was Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Then, Chad, North Korea and  Venezuela. Now, it’s Nigeria, Eritrea, Myanmar, Sudan (again!) Tanzania and Kyrgyzstan.

You may have the impression that the Trump Administration’s attempts to ban travel had failed, failed and failed again. You would be right. However, the Administration (and its indefatigable appellate litigators) have found a formula that has, to date, survived judicial review. That formula is on display in the latest travel ban, which we’ll call Travel Ban 4.0 to distinguish it from the others.

On Friday, January 31, 2020, the President issued a proclamation promulgating Travel Ban 4.0, which suspends the issuance of immigrant visas to nationals from Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar (Burma) and Nigeria. The ban is less harsh for two other countries, Sudan and Tanzania, because it only freezes visa issuance under the Diversity Visa Program.

This new ban goes into effect, for all countries concerned, on February 21, 2020. After that date, U.S. embassies and consulates throughout the world will no longer issue immigrant visas unless the foreign national is granted a special waiver. However, nationals from those countries will still be eligible for nonimmigrant visas, such as student visas and visitor visas, and will still be eligible for green cards if they happen to be in the United States.

Travel Ban 4.0 differs in certain important respects from its previous iterations. In issuing the Proclamation, President Trump cites to these countries’ alleged failure to share important security information and for lacking passports with certain security features. Some nations fail to issue travel documents to their nationals who have been ordered removed from the United States. The President also believes that once nationals from these countries enter as lawful permanent residents, they will therefore be harder to remove.

Every individual matters, but some of the banned countries are more populous than others. North Korea doesn’t send many visa applicants our way, and, although some of our very best clients are from Kyrgyzstan, the really big numbers in Travel Ban 4.0 come from one country: Nigeria. Nigerians — who are some of the best-educated immigrants in the United States — make up a large community in the D.C. area and in many other parts of the United States.

We’re your friendly local immigration lawyers, not foreign policy wonks, but, speaking simply as concerned citizens, we think that Travel Ban 4.0 is going to cause a lot of suffering in exchange for very little security gain. If the Administration were truly worried about security, why would it allow foreign nationals to continue to travel to the United States with nonimmigrant visas?

We’ve already seen that foreign students sometimes spy on the U.S. government. Travel Ban 4.0 won’t stop the next Maria Butina. But it will stop our U.S. citizen clients from being reunited with their spouses and minor children.

If you or someone you know might be impacted by this new travel ban, please contact your trusted immigration attorney. Travel Ban 4.0 includes procedures for applying for a waiver. Those procedures are onerous and opaque, but we’re committed to helping people through it.

If you have questions about Travel Ban 4.0 and related topics, please comment below. We welcome all comments and will reply to as many as we can.

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This sponsored column is by James Montana, Esq. and Doran Shemin, Esq., practicing attorneys at Steelyard LLC, an immigration-focused law firm located in Arlington, Virginia. The legal information given here is general in nature. If you want legal advice, contact James for an appointment.

In the past few months, the news outlets have been buzzing with the royal drama surrounding Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

The couple has split from official British royal family duties due to a desire to live a more private life; this may be the biggest royal controversy since Prince Harry’s great-great-uncle Edward abdicated the throne in 1936. For now, it appears that the couple will split their time between North America and the United Kingdom, spending much of their time in Canada.

Given the fact that Meghan Markle is a U.S. citizen, the happy quasi-royals may want to relocate in the United States. A common misconception is that foreign nationals automatically become U.S. citizens if they marry a U.S. citizen. For reasons we have explained elsewhere, using links to Animal House, that simply isn’t so. If Prince Harry wanted to live permanently in the United States, the Duchess would have to go through the formal process of petitioning for the Prince to receive lawful permanent residency (a.k.a. a green card).

After having a green card for at least 3 years, Prince Harry would be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship. But would he? We think not.

One of the first eligibility questions on the naturalization application is “Do you now have, or did you EVER have, a hereditary title or an order of nobility in any foreign country?” The following question states “If you answered “Yes,” are you willing to give up any inherited titles or orders of nobility that you have in a foreign country at your naturalization ceremony?”

While Prince Harry would obviously have to answer “yes” to the first question, he might not be willing to say “yes” to the second. His business interests, never mind his identity, might be rather well served by remaining the Duke of Sussex.

Then, of course, there is Prince Harry’s military service to consider. Prince Harry (“Lt. Wales,” to the squaddies) served two tours in Afghanistan and, in addition to his admirable work as a soldier, has served as an honorary officer in the Royal Air Force, the Royal Marines and the Royal Navy. He would need detailed discharge paperwork from all of these Services.

Other than that, we think Prince Harry wouldn’t have too many difficulties become a U.S. citizen. But, of course, we’d be glad to help him find out. We offer the same reasonable rates, personal service, and careful work to HRHs (and former HRHs) as we do to everyone else.

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This sponsored column is by James Montana, Esq. and Doran Shemin, Esq., practicing attorneys at Steelyard LLC, an immigration-focused law firm located in Arlington, Virginia. The legal information given here is general in nature. If you want legal advice, contact James for an appointment.

“Amnesty” isn’t the word that the Trump Administration would want to use — they’re calling “Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness” — but it walks like an amnesty and quacks like an amnesty, so, take it from your friendly local immigration lawyers: this is the Liberian Amnesty.

Not all Liberians qualify, but many do. Here are the rules, paraphrased and streamlined:

  1. You must file an application for a green card by December 20, 2020.
  2. You must be a citizen of Liberia.
  3. You must have been “continuously present” from November 20, 2014 to the date that you file your green card application.
  4. You must not have been convicted of a serious crime.
  5. You must not have persecuted others for their political or religious convictions.

Several of these rules include terms of art. “Continuously present” allows for short gaps in presence; “serious crime” is our plain-English way of saying “an aggravated felony or two or more crimes involving moral turpitude.” And there are waivers available for some people who might be otherwise disqualified. It’s complicated! If you’re Liberian, call your lawyer.

Non-Liberians in the audience are probably wondering why on earth the Trump Administration would do this. The short answer is that some Liberians have had TPS (Temporary Protected Status) and DED (Deferred Enforced Departure) since the George H.W. Bush administration promulgated temporary protections for Liberians in 1991. That was a long time ago — one of us was born in that year, and the other one was a first-grader at Ashlawn Elementary, right here in Arlington. (Hi, Ms. McCray!)

Between 1991 and the present, various Presidential administrations of various ideological dispositions have extended temporary protection to Liberians in the United States. The Trump Administration moved to abolish these protections as of March 30, 2020.

That move inspired Rhode Island’s Congressional delegation to add the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act as a rider to the National Defense Authorization Act. (Why Rhode Island? There are lots of Liberians there. The more you know!) And Rhode Island happens to be the home state for the Ranking Member on the Armed Services Committee, Sen. Jack Reed.

The world is full of surprises. The Trump Amnesty for Liberians is one of them. We suspect that it would come as a surprise to him, too. In President Trump’s comments after he signed the National Defense Authorization Act, he commented on the prolixity of the Act:

So it’s now my honor to sign the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act into law. And again, congratulations.  Thank you all very much. Very, very special people. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

This is the thickness. Can you believe that? (Laughter.)

(The act is signed.)

It’s now signed.  (Applause.)

We, too, applaud. Many Liberians across the United States will be able to finally stop worrying and become lawful permanent residents.

As always, be in touch with us directly if you need legal advice. If you have other sorts of questions, comment below. We love comments and will reply to all we can.

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This sponsored column is by James Montana, Esq. and Doran Shemin, Esq., practicing attorneys at Steelyard LLC, an immigration-focused law firm located in Arlington, Virginia. The legal information given here is general in nature. If you want legal advice, contact James for an appointment.

April is a busy month for daffodils, accountants and immigration lawyers.

The first week of April is the biggest week of the year for business immigration: H-1B season. The H-1B visa is a visa for foreign workers who will work in a specialty occupation in the United States on a temporary basis. Shorn of legalese, that means that foreigners who have specialty degrees — software programmers, accountants, lawyers — can work in the United States.

Demand greatly exceeds supply for these visas. Each fiscal year, there is a cap of 65,000 visas and a separate cap of 20,000 visas, known as the master’s cap, for foreign nationals with a U.S. master’s degree or higher, for a total of 85,000 available visas. Most employers submit applications for foreign workers under this program in April in the hope that foreign workers will start work at the beginning of the next fiscal year, in October. Demand is indeed intense.

Last year, USCIS began accepting fiscal year 2020 regular cap petitions on April 1, 2019. USCIS reached the 65,000-regular cap just four days later.

For the upcoming H-1B cap season, however, USCIS has changed the rules for the lottery. USCIS will use an electronic registration process for fiscal year 2021 cap season. Now, between March 1 and March 20, 2020, all employers seeking to file cap-subject petitions, including advanced degree petitions, must electronically register and pay a $10.00 fee to USCIS for each petition they wish to file. USCIS will then select registrations at random, and only those registrations chosen will be eligible to file a full cap-subject petition.

Previously, to file a cap-subject petition, employers submitted their petitions in full. This required many reams of paper and significant legal bills, with only a chance of having the petition selected. It also required tons of manpower on USCIS’s part to sift through all of the petitions. Now, employers will just submit a lottery ticket application with a $10 fee attached.

We can’t exaggerate how much this will lower legal bills for lottery entry. Is it good news for our bottom line? No. But it’s great news for clients!

If the new lottery system works, this will be a much better system for employers, especially smaller employers, who were understandably loathe to spend thousands of dollars on a petition that might not even be pulled out of the lottery. Now, smaller businesses will be able to compete with large companies on an equal basis.

The new H-1B lottery will be cheaper and better, but, if our experience is anything to go by, it won’t roll out smoothly. An experienced immigration lawyer can help companies navigate this new process. We are here to help.

As always, we welcome comments and will reply to all that we can. Happy Holidays!

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This sponsored column is by James Montana, Esq. and Doran Shemin, Esq., practicing attorneys at Steelyard LLC, an immigration-focused law firm located in Arlington, Virginia. The legal information given here is general in nature. If you want legal advice, contact James for an appointment.

It is an underappreciated fact that immigrants, not taxpayers, foot the bill for the bureaucratic machinery of the U.S. immigration system. And it is a big bill. The annual budget of US Citizenship and Immigration Services is $4.8 billion. Ninety-seven percent of that is funded by immigrants themselves.

The Department of Homeland Security periodically reviews USCIS fees to make sure that its income keeps up with its costs. The newest review, which is up for public comment until December 16, imposes large increases on the most common types of immigration applications. For example, an ordinary green card application packet, with applications for interim benefits, currently costs $1,225. The new price is $2,195. An ordinary application for citizenship currently costs $725. The new price is $1,170.

On the whole, prices are set to increase by about twenty percent across all application types, but the pain will be concentrated, for reasons unclear to us, on ordinary individuals applying for benefits. Businesses face much smaller price increases. In addition, applicants for asylum will be required to pay a fee — for the first time in U.S. history — and the government will demand that asylum seekers pay $490 for their first work permit. How to pay for a work permit without working legally is unclear to us; in practical terms, the government is simply demanding that asylum seekers work without permits.

The why of government action is not always easy to discern. USCIS’s own report suggests that the reason for the fee increases is threefold:

  1. Transfer of funding from USCIS to ICE. In short, green card application fees are being used to pay for immigration enforcement, including detention and removal operations.
  2. Pay increases for existing USCIS staff and additional hiring.
  3. Increased administrative overhead and vetting costs.

These justifications aren’t particularly persuasive. Fees increased by twenty percent in 2017 and are set to increase by another twenty percent in 2020. The USCIS budget was $3.3B in 2017. The USCIS cost projection for fiscal year 2020 is $4.6B. During this period of lavish budget increases and moderate workload growth, USCIS has, by its own admission, gotten worse and worse at processing applications in a timely way. Year-long backlogs have become the new norm.

There are plenty of conscientious public servants at USCIS. We want them to have the resources they need to adjudicate requests fairly, quickly and securely. But the burden of paying for it should be more evenly distributed, and immigrants should be able to get answers in months, not years, for ordinary benefits requests.

In these challenging times, even minor mistakes on immigration applications can have expensive consequences and cause a long process to be delayed even further. We’re here to help.

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This sponsored column is by James Montana, Esq. and Doran Shemin, Esq., practicing attorneys at Steelyard LLC, an immigration-focused law firm located in Arlington, Virginia. The legal information given here is general in nature. If you want legal advice, contact James for an appointment.

ARLnow readers know well that the Washington D.C. metro area has one of the largest Salvadoran populations in the United States. Many Salvadorans in our community have been living and working in the United States lawfully for many years under a program called Temporary Protected Status, also known as TPS. Other immigrants from Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen also hold TPS. Quietly, cheaply and efficiently, TPS has offered a safe harbor for many of our friends and neighbors for decades.

The Trump Administration, for reasons best known to itself, has sought to wind down the program, particularly for Salvadoran, Honduran, Nicaraguan, Sudanese, Haitian and Nepalese citizens. TPS holders, employers and immigration attorneys throughout the country have been waiting on pins and needles to see if the Trump Administration would extend TPS for these countries, thereby allowing many immigrants to continue to be productive members of our community.

Thanks to litigation on a scale best appreciated by watching Game of Thrones battles through a kaleidoscope, TPS has indeed been extended until January 4, 2021 for El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, Sudan, Honduras and Nepal. (Two years ago, one of your Infallible Writers told you that TPS was ending. He was wrong.)

This array of stopgap extensions is better than nothing. But what are employers supposed to do if they have to worry year after year about losing their workforce when TPS finally ends? Thankfully, there is an answer for these employers: sponsor TPS employees for permanent residency.

Employers who have trusted employees that are authorized to work under the TPS program can file petitions on behalf of these employees that can eventually lead to green cards. This process, called PERM, is a three-step process that allows immigrants to receive permanent residency in the United States. Any company, large or small, can use PERM to petition beloved employees or attractive potential employees.

It starts off with recruitment and certification overseen by the Department of Labor, followed by an immigrant visa petition with the Department of Homeland Security. If all goes well, the employee can then apply for a green card. This process helps employers keep their star employees without worrying about the whims of the government.

If you have TPS, or you work with a team that includes TPS employees, reach out to an immigration attorney to see if this process is right for you. Moving from TPS to a green card requires dealing with multiple bureaucracies, and small mistakes can have major consequences. We’re here to help. We’re also here to answer questions, so please feel free to leave a comment. We read and appreciate them all.

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This sponsored column is by James Montana, Esq., the principal of Steelyard LLC, an immigration-focused law firm located in Arlington, Virginia. The legal information given here is general in nature. If you want legal advice, contact him for an appointment.

By James Montana, Esq.

Ending Temporary Protected Status for El Salvador, I think, was the most serious practical blow dealt by the Trump administration to Virginians. There are about 200,000 Salvadoran TPS-holders in the United States, of whom roughly 30,000 live in the D.C. metro region.

U.S. immigration officials are committed to maintaining TPS for current TPS recipients until September 9, 2019. The application window to reapply for TPS status until that date has not yet opened. Expect it to open by March 2018 at the latest.

Going back to El Salvador is neither practical nor desirable for most Salvadoran families in our community. For that reason, many of my clients have approached me for advice on how to move from TPS to lawful permanent residency – a green card, to you and me. Some TPS-holders do actually have a path to a green card.

Explaining the mechanics will require a bit of background. (For more, read this nifty guide.) For family-based cases, a foreigner must have a family member in the United States who can file a petition. United States citizen children over the age of 21 can, under some circumstances, file such petitions for their parents.

That means that Salvadoran TPS holders who have U.S. citizen children – and many do, because TPS has been the law of the land since Taylor Swift was eleven years old – may be able to file for a green card. United States citizens can also file similar petitions for their spouses.

New family petitions require proof of the family relationship. For parental relationships, you’ll need a birth certificate, and sometimes a DNA test if the government demands it. Marital relationships require a boatload of evidence of bona fide marriage. In addition, family petitioners can expect to pay about $2,000 in fees to the U.S. government, as well as fees to an attorney. Read More

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