On November 15, 2013, USCIS issued a new policy memorandum outlining procedures for "Parole In Place," granting certain benefits to spouses, parents and children of certain military personnel.
This is good news. It's a recognition that worrying about immigration status of family members is severe enough a condition to warrant a very sparingly used benefit.
You can read the full memo here
We've boiled it down; here is what you need to know:What Is "Parole In Place" (PIP)?
Who Can Apply For PIP?
- Parole in place is an immigration benefit that makes your entry into the United States lawful, without having to leave the United States, even if you entered the United States without inspection.
- If you are granted "Parole In Place," you will be "paroled" into the United States. This is not the same as being admitted with a visa, but it does allow, under some circumstances, for you to apply for permanent residence. Usually this means because you are married to a US citizen, but there are other times it may apply.
- While you are "paroled in place" you will not be deported.
- PIP is granted in one-year increments, so every year you would have to renew it if granted.
- There is no age limit or physical presence requirement to apply for PIP.
You must have a parent, spouse, or child who is serving, or has served in:
- US Army
- US Navy
- US Marine Corps
- US Air Force
- US Coast Guard
- Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve
Remember, either someone currently serving
or a veteran
of one the above-named units.How Do I Apply?
Submit Form I-131 (without a filing fee) to your local USCIS Office, with two color photographs, proof of your identity, relationship with the qualifying relative, and proof of your qualifying relative's current or former service in the US Armed Forces or Selected Reserve. You should also submit proof of any positive or countervailing equities, such as absence of a criminal record.My Spouse (Or Parent Or Child) Is Out Of Status; Can I Enlist In The Army To Help Them?
So far, it appears the answer to this question is yes, but there is no way to tell how USCIS might view this. It is important to remember that PIP is discretionary
. If USCIS says no, there is no way to appeal the decision. And the memo does not contain any provisions about not sharing information provided with ICE, which may inadvertently put your loved one on ICE's radar. (When deferred action, or DACA, came out, there were assurances made by USCIS that information collected by DACA applicants would not be used to initiate removal proceedings.)
Also - some military branches such as the Navy and the Marine Corps - do not allow new applicants who have dependents (spouses and children) who are out of status. Whether these requirements can be amended for PIP purposes is something we will have to wait and see.
We are able to direct prospective applicants and will be using PIP as a viable means of immigration relief for people who otherwise might not have any options. If you have a relative who served in the US Armed Forces, or yourself served and have a parent, spouse or child out of status, contact us by completing the form below to see if we can help. You might want to join our LawFeed
, to stay on top of updates as they come out.
Immigration applications frequently require the applicant to prove that he or she was physically present in the United States on a certain date.
Back in the days of 245(i), it was proving physical presence on December 21, 2000. For cancellation of removal, you have to show 10 years in the US. For deferred action, or DACA, you have to show you were under 16 and in the US prior to June 15, 2007.
And so a lot of people run into problems. If you don't have status, you might not have a paycheck stub or a rental or lease agreement. Any pictures you might have are probably undated.
That's where creativity comes in. As lawyers trying to find the best way to help our clients, sometimes it's the small things that can make a huge difference.
A young Dreamer came to see us who entered the US at age 14, but since she didn't start school until 16, she had no proof that she was in the United States when she was under 16.
I told her, bring anything you can from that time period. All she could find were three pictures. They were taken when she was 14, and they happened to be from a sightseeing trip in Washington, DC. That was good: it's easy to tell the pictures were taken in the United States.
But there was no date on the pictures. I looked on the back; no photo date print, either. The pictures could have been taken in 1993, 2003, or 2013; there was no way to tell.
I usually look for pictures of cars. If it's close enough, one good way is to look at the license plates and see the month and year the plates expired. Yes, it's possible for someone to drive around with expired tags - but remember, the burden of proof is a preponderance of the evidence - you only have to show a 51% likelihood.
There were no cars in any of the pictures, unfortunately.
But then I noticed a construction barrier in one picture around the Washington Monument. I asked my client if she got to see the Monument that day, and she said no, it was closed. A quick Google search pulled up articles that the Monument was closed in September 2004 and reopened in April 2005. During that time, there were indeed "Jersey walls" - movable concrete barriers - to close the Monument to pedestrian, vehicle and tourist traffic.
Now, it's possible that the photograph was "Photoshopped." It's possible the Monument was closed after my client turned 16. It's possible that...
But again - it's important to remember the burden of proof. By using these pictures as documentary evidence supporting an affidavit, that burden was sustained, and USCIS approved the deferred action application.
Years ago we had a 245(i) case wherein we proved physical presence in December 2000 with a picture that showed the applicant at a Home Depot, wearing an orange apron with his name and a logo that said "Proud Sponsor - Sydney Olympic Games" and - what Providence - there happened to be a Christmas tree in the background. (The Olympics were held in Sydney, Australia in the year 2000).
More frequently, we use tagged photos on Facebook; while individually they might not carry much weight, photos that have been tagged and commented on by multitudes of people are much harder to fake.
The point is, as I've advised my clients many times - it's impossible to live in the United States and not leave a trail. You just have to know what you're looking for. And a picture is usually worth a thousand words.
Hassan M. Ahmad, Esq.
We have received dozens of phone calls and emails from Syrians in the United States (and beyond) wondering if they have any option to flee the horrifying and worsening situation in Syria.
Bashar al-Assad has been afflicted with what might be called fir'auniyyah, and is unable to see the horror he and his soldiers and shabbihah are inflicting on the proud people of Syria. As a Muslim attorney, his words and actions remind me of the following verse:
قال فرعون ماأريكم الا ماأرى وما أهديكم الا سبيل الرشاد
Pharaoh said: ‘I only point out to you that which I see myself, and I guide you only to the path of rectitude. (Qur'an 40:29)
It does not appear the Assad regime will go quietly into the night. Those that are fortunate enough to be able to travel to other countries to escape must know what their rights are.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Have you, since the Revolution began, provided aid to any injured person? This can include helping someone to the hospital, providing food, shelter, or medicine, or even telling someone where regime checkpoints are.
- Have you ever talked to a member of the press about the Syrian regime?
- Have you ever joined a social media page (such as Facebook or Twitter) about the Syrian revolution?
- Have you ever "liked" a post on a social media page (such as Facebook or Twitter) that was even mildly critical of the regime?
- Did you ever take part in any demonstration against the Assad regime?
- Have you ever been visited by a regime soldier or mukhabaraat officer?
- Have you ever been arrested while in Syria?
- Have you ever been interrogated by a mukhabaraat officer?
- Have you ever talked to anyone who was later found to be targeted (or killed) by the regime?
- Had you ever been critical of the Assad regime prior to the Revolution?
- Are you related by blood or marriage to anyone who has done any of the activities in (1) through (10), above?
- Are you close friends with anyone who has done any of the activities in (1) through (10), above?
If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, and you hold a Syrian passport (or a Syrian-Palestinian refugee document) and have never been offered asylum or permanent residence in any other country (iqaamah
in Saudi Arabia or other Gulf States does not
count as "permanent residence") then you should talk to an immigration lawyer
about your options.
Asylum is a very complicated legal proceeding. You might think you have a strong case, but there may be legal obstacles to overcome. For example, if you've been in the United States for more than 1 year, you may be barred from applying for asylum unless you can demonstrate one of the legal exceptions applies to you.
Also, a memorandum of law should accompany your filing, explaining why the things that happened to you qualify you legally
If you are granted asylum, after one year you can apply directly for permanent residence. Your spouse and children can generally also join you.
If a non-citizen is convicted of an "aggravated felony" then deportation is virtually certain. This term "aggravated felony" is somewhat misleading, because it does not have to be a felony, nor must it be "aggravated." But there are a handful of cases - extremely rare - where the immigration law allows relief for aggravated felons in the form of (among others) indefinite deferral of removal. Our firm recently enjoyed one such victory.
If an alien may show that it is more likely than not that he will be tortured at the hands of the government (or at least with government acquiescence) then that alien cannot be deported. This is because the United States signed an international treaty known as the Convention Against Torture, or CAT. In our case was a young man from Somalia who had recently completed a nearly 5 year sentence in a federal correctional facility.
Our argument was relatively straightforward: our client was entitled to protection under Article 3 of the Convention Against Torture (CAT) because it is more likely than not that Al-Shabaab or the Somali government would detain him and torture him if he returns. In order to establish this, we had to show that the acts that would be perpetrated against him fulfill the following six basic elements of torture: 1) an intentional act; 2) the infliction of severe pain or suffering; 3) for a broad array of wrongful purposes; 4) by or sanctioned by a public official; and 5) not arising out of lawful sanctions.
When examining whether it is more likely than not that our client would be tortured upon return to Somalia, the Court had to consider all relevant evidence, including: evidence of past torture inflicted upon our client and/or his family, evidence that he could relocate to a part of Somalia where he is not likely to be tortured, evidence of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights within the country of removal; and other relevant information regarding conditions in Somalia. Further, when determining the likelihood of torture from different entities, the Court cannot separately consider whether the likelihood of torture by each entity amounts to greater than 50%, but rather must examine the cumulative probability of torture by the group of entities. 8 CFR § 1208.16(c)(3)(ii); see also Kamara v. Att'y Gen. of the U.S.
, 420 F.3d 202, 213-15 (3d Cir. 2005).
We presented evidence, via testimony of family members and an expert, that ifhe were to be deported to Somalia, he would likely be detained by the "Transitional Federal Goverment" of Somalia. Since he grew up in the US, he would be unable to prove his lineage and clan membership, and likely unable to disprove his relationship with Al-Shabaab, the terrorist extremist group vying for control of the country. Al-Shabaab, in turn, would be highly interested in an Americanized youngster fluent in English, for purposes of recruitment in the Western world. Refusal to join a group such as Al-Shabaab is not tolerated and buys one a swift execution. So our client would be detained by the federal government, but even if released, would be unable to avoid targeting by Al-Shabaab, which still controls vast swaths of the country.
Judge Harris of the Arlington Immigration Court issued the opinion.
In fiscal year 2012, 9,710 CAT applications were denied (not counting thousands more that were abandoned) and deferral of removal was only granted in 129 cases, a success rate of only 1.3%. See FY2012 Statistical Year Book
, USDOJ, Executive Office of Immigration Review at p M1.
If you're an international student, you've been warned many times: you can't work. Your DSO has told you that if you're caught working, your SEVIS record will be terminated.
While it may be fairly argued that stifling an educated student's entrepreneurial spirit should not be the function of the immigration system - it is possible, under some circumstances, to establish or invest in a business - but the rules differe depending on whether you have OPT (optional practical training) or not.
If You Have No OPT
While you cannot work, there is no prohibition from investing or establishing a new business. But logistically, since you cannot even "volunteer" for the company you're investing in - it can create a lot of procedural hurdles to do so. Doing a business plan for later on when OPT is obtained, however, is perfectly permissible.
If you're going to start a business - make sure to incorporate or form an LLC. The reason is that a sole proprietorship will require you to engage in business, as opposed to a separate corporate entity. You must actually create a separate organization so that you're not the only one running the show.
An F-1 student can receive dividends so long as taxes are filed since this is passive investment and not active employment. Moreover, a company that is generating business can later be used, under narrow circumstances, to petition for the F-1 student in H-1B status.
If You Have OPT
Now you can work for your own company that you have established!
Update 24 Oct 2013: If you are Syrian and are wondering, "Do I have a case for asylum in the US?" please read our new Blawg post.
In 2012, 24,800 Syrians sought asylum in industrialized countries, including the United States, making Syria the second largest exporter of asylum seekers in the world (after Afghanistan). This is unsurprising of course, knowing that almost 93,000 Syrians
have been killed over the course of the conflict. In the United States, 566 Syrian nationals applied for asylum between January 2011 and August 2012. In 2013, the number of Syrian asylum seekers is undoubtedly higher. It appears the success rates are fairly high for Syrians seeking asylum at USCIS Asylum Offices across the country. One report notes that out of the 441 applications that were filed at asylum offices between January and August 2012, 65% were approved. Below, I discuss the different ways that Syrians can seek protection from the U.S. Government. Affirmative Asylum Applicants:
For Syrians who have recently arrived in the United States or who have only recently become afraid of returning to Syria, they can apply for asylum with USCIS. In order to succeed on their asylum claim, they must establish they have a fear of being persecuted in Syria because of their political opinion, religion, race, nationality, or social group. During the affirmative asylum process, applicants are interviewed by asylum officers at regional asylum officers. Officers may grant applicants asylum after the interview. If they do not grant the application, officers may deny the case or refer the case to Immigration Court, depending on the applicant's immigration status at the time of the interview.
While past performance is no guarantee of future success, our office has successfully handled a number of affirmative asylum cases from Syria, and if you would like to discuss your asylum case with us, please find information about how to set up a consultation with our office on this page. Defensive Asylum Applicants:
For Syrians already in removal proceedings at the Immigration Court, they can apply for asylum as a form of relief from removal. Asylum applicants already in removal proceedings are not interviewed by an asylum officer, but have to argue that they are eligible for asylum in front of an immigration judge. Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Syrians:
In addition to asylum, the U.S. Government is currently offering “Temporary Protected Status
” to Syrians who have been present in the United States since June 17, 2013. TPS allows qualifying Syrians to remain in the United States legally until at least March 31, 2015, to obtain a work permit, and also to apply for travel authorization. In order to qualify for TPS, applicants must be a national or a former habitual resident of Syria, file during the registration period, have been continuously physically present and residing in the United States since June 17, 2013, and not face any criminal or national security bars to eligibility. The current application period runs from June 17, 2013 to December 16, 2013. For more information, please see the USCIS TPS page
. Can I apply for both TPS and Asylum?
If you believe that you qualify for asylum, you may apply for TPS at the same time as you apply for asylum. Applying for both forms of protection at the same time will not hurt either application.
Call or text 703.964.0245.Carly Stadum-Liang, Esq.
Laws recently passed in states around the country are adding to the list of states where undocumented immigrants can get driving licenses. The new laws even benefit undocumented immigrants who are not recipients of “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).” The hitch is that driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants will not work as identification for federal purposes in most of the states issuing these licenses, meaning that immigrants will not be able to use their new licenses to board planes or to enter federal courthouses. But, most importantly, the new laws grant undocumented immigrants driving privileges and a form of state identification.
Here is a list of states where undocumented immigrants can obtain licenses (as of May 2013), even if they are not DACA recipients (for a list of states that issue licenses to DACA recipients see this Article):
- New Mexico
- Illinois (will begin issuing in late 2013)
- Maryland (will begin issuing in early 2014)
- Oregon (will begin issuing in early 2014)
- Connecticut (will begin issuing in January 2015)
A number of other states are currently considering legislation that would allow them to issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. For more information on the eligibility requirements for driver’s licenses in the states listed above, contact the nearest Department of Motor Vehicles. And remember, you cannot get a license from one of the states listed above unless live in the state and can prove state residency.Carly Stadum-Liang, Esq.
Two weeks ago, Vice President Biden said that he hopes that “Congress will show the wisdom to pass the bipartisan immigration bill by the end of the summer. They must, and I'm optimistic.” Like Vice President Biden, we are also anxious to see Congress pass immigration reform as soon as possible.
For the last two weeks, the Senate Judiciary Committee, the committee in charge of drafting and sending the immigration bill to the Senate floor, has been reviewing proposed amendments to the immigration bill. The process they are engaging in is known as a “mark-up,” a formal legislation revision process. Once the Judiciary Committee has finished reviewing and voting on the amendments, and after it approves the bill by unanimous consent, the committee will send the bill to the Senate floor for a vote.
The House, unfortunately, is a few steps behind the Senate. House negotiators only just reached a deal on their bipartisan immigration bill on May 16th. They hope to release their bill in early June. Once they release their bill, the House Judiciary Committee will go through the same amendment process that the Senate is now engaging in. After their amendment process is finished, the committee will vote on whether to place the bill on the House floor for a vote.
If both the House and the Senate are able to muster the votes to pass immigration reform legislation, House and Senate leaders can then participate in a formal conference committee during which the two houses will attempt to resolve legislative differences between the two versions of the bill. Once the bill is agreed to and signed by the leader of each house, the bill will then go to the President for his approval or veto. Then and only then will we finally be able to celebrate.
As you can see, there are many steps and potential obstacles to passing immigration reform legislation. However, despite the long wait ahead, we finally see a light at the end of the tunnel and will be ready to celebrate with our clients when the time comes!
Carly Stadum-Liang, Esq.
Family unification has long been the foundation of the U.S. legal immigration system. This reflects our American values of keeping families united and strong. The HMA Law Firm
therefore applauds the Senate's efforts to decrease the backlogs in the family-based immigration system. Current backlogs
keep U.S. citizen parents apart from their adult children for, on average, about seven years, and brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens apart for about 12 years. The bill proposes to eliminate, over 10 years, a backlog of 4.7 million immigrants who have been been waiting for their green cards based on their relationship to U.S. citizen relatives.
However, here at The HMA Law Firm
, we are concerned with the bill's proposal to eliminate the family-based visa category for siblings of U.S. citizens. The purpose of eliminating this category is to free up additional green card for other categories, including employment based green cards. The Senators proposing this legislation evidently think that the U.S. cannot increase employment-based immigration without decreasing family-based immigration. However, this is a wrong-headed notion, based on the faulty assumption that the U.S. can only absorb a fixed number of immigrants at a given time, even though, as history suggests, our nation's demand for immigrants is constantly in flux. Further the bill's writers seemed to have forgotten that family-based immigration supports the goals of employment-based immigration. Research
shows that “close family relationships facilitate entrepreneurship because family members can support in caring for children and working in family-based businesses.” Getting rid of the sibling visa category will reduce the amount of family support that U.S. citizen entrepreneurs need to successfully run their businesses.
The Senators working on the Senate immigration bill, called the “gang-of-eight,” do not need to make this false choice between increasing employment-based immigration or supporting continued family-based immigration. Instead, they can increase skilled, employment-based immigration, while at the same time maintaining the same family-based sibling category that has been proven to spur on entrepreneurship in immigrant communities. We hope that as the Senate Judiciary Committee
continues to make changes to its immigration bill, it will restore the sibling family based immigration category. It must do so to uphold our American values of fairness and inclusion. Carly Stadum-Liang, Esq.
today about Sen. Grassley using the horrific Boston Marathon attacks politically, saying the attacks show "it’s important for us to understand the gaps and loopholes in our immigration system."
"The bill does not shy away from addressing issues of national security and its ties to immigration regulations. As even Fox News reports, the bill addresses, "improved Visa tracking, securing U.S. borders, improving the employee verification system known as E-Verify and providing a path to citizenship." Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said at a hearing, as a response: "I urge restraint in that regard … Let no one be so cruel as to try to use the heinous attacks of these two young men last week to derail the dreams and futures of millions of hard-working people." Robert Costa reports the "tweaking process could take months, which is just fine with many Republicans, who’d like the public to have as much time as possible to chew over the controversial elements of Obama’s prized bills. The caucus consensus is: The more time Congress takes to consider a bill, the more time the public has to sour on its components." It’s clear that attempts to try to slow down immigration reform based on these crises are part of greater political agendas.
What is more important is the vital need for immigration reform as soon as possible. The bill provides a vehicle for citizenship that is far from perfect: most estimate it would take about 13 years, and all provisions will be contingent upon strict regulation to make the good enforceable. However, the bill still is vital to better and stronger immigration policy.
Senator Chuck Shumer dressed Grassley down hard today for his comments on Thursday, and we can only hope that is an indication of how our conversations about immigration reform will progress. This bill is overdue, and we should not pander to those who look to crisis to dissuade progress on such a pivotal issue.
Or in sum: if Sen. Grassley thinks we need to slow down and figure out what's wrong with our immigration system, he should be enthusiastically supporting this bill. Because anyone who's been in the field can tell you with precision how and why the system is broken and badly in need of reform. That exactly is the dialogue that has been opened with last week's Senate bill. That the Senator thinks we need to put the brakes on what alreadya glacially slow process exhibits the obvious: he's pandering to the group that still thinks the solution is to "deport them all."