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April Visa Bulletin: What Are the Big Changes?

The U.S. State Department recently released the April Visa Bulletin for this year. Every month, a visa bulletin is released that provides important information about filing dates for immigrants that are attempting to get an Adjustment of Status.  The bulletin helps summarize the availability for immigrants numbers during April for “Final Action Dates” as well, which help inform immigrant visa applicants of when they should assemble and submit the appropriate documents to the National Visa Center.

How Does the Visa Bulletin Work?

Immigrants should make sure they are comparing their priority date (when their green card petition was received) and the final action date listed on the bulletin given for their visa category and country of origin. If the priority date and final action date match, you will receive a visa number and you can adjust your status. It’s important to check the bulletin every month because the final action date will either move closer to your priority date, or it could unfortunately retrogress backward. If the category is current, that means that your visa number will be available once your petition is processed and reviewed. For April, there are a few important advancement dates and retrogressions in the employment-based categories.

What is an Employment-Based Category?

You can get an immigrant visa through your employment in the U.S. Most of the time, you’ll need a job offer from a U.S. employer. There are preference levels (EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3) relevant for this month, as well as chargeability areas (China, India, the Philippines, Central America, and Mexico). 

What Does the April Visa Bulletin Reveal?

The final action dates moved around a bit for the employment categories for this month.

EB-1 category: For people born in China and India, the dates went from being current in March 2018, to back to January 2012 for April of 2018. This is a huge retrogression of over six years, which means that the EB-1 category is not an expedited option for Chinese and Indian people seeking status in this preference level. The dates for Central America, Mexico, and the Philippines are current.

EB-2 category: For China, the dates moved forward nearly 8 months (from December 2013 to August 2014). India, unfortunately, only progressed by one week (in December 2008) for the EB-2 category. Central America, Mexico, and the Philippines are current.

EB-3 category: For professionals and skilled employees born in India, China and the Philippines, there’s good news. India’s dates rocketed ahead by over one year, China moved 6.5 months and the Philippines advanced by 8 months.

If you would like to keep up with more visa and immigration news, keep in touch with our immigration law resources online, or contact the law office of Sweta Khandelwal directly.

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How to Help a Family Member Acquire a Visitor Visa

The United States prides itself on being an extremely diverse country where people from all over the world have started new and prosperous lives. Many times, people who have recently immigrated to this country will still have family members living in their country of origin who will want to visit. There are many types of visas that a person can apply for, so it might be confusing as to which visa your family member should get if they’re interested in visiting you.

How Do I Help My Family Member Get a Visa?

A citizen from a foreign country who wants to enter the United States must obtain a visitor visa. Usually, it will be a nonimmigrant visa for temporary stay if it’s just for a visit or vacation. This kind of visitor visa is called a Tourism and Visit visa under visa category B-2. Once it’s established what type of visa your family member needs to acquire, then you can walk them through the application process. First, inform your family member that they will need to prove, under U.S. law, that they are not presuming to be an intended immigrant, but instead are just visiting temporarily. Any evidence might be required, such as an intended purpose of their trip, what specific time period they will be visiting, proof of funds to cover their expenses during their trip, and confirmation that they have a residence outside of the U.S. and any other proof of binding ties that they will have to leave the U.S. at the end of the visit. Then, they can apply for their visitor visa at the nearest U.S. embassy or Consulate in their country. Make sure they apply for their visa way in advance of their travel departure date. They will have to pay a non-refundable visa application fee, and then have an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. There will be wait times for the interview appointment and the visa processing, so the earlier your family member can do everything, the better.

The process for a temporary visa application is complicated, especially if you’re trying to help a family member in another country. One of the fundamental pillars of immigration law is family unification, and our immigration attorneys will do anything it takes to keep your family together. Our team of immigration attorneys at the Law Office of Sweta Khandelwal are here to help you through the process and answer any questions you have. Contact us to get you or your family member started.

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New California State Immigration Laws for 2018

The state of California has always been a national hub for immigrants. It has a large coastline and also shares a border with Mexico, so the state has dealt with many immigration issues and specific laws over the years. For the new year of 2018, California has enacted three new immigration laws that have already taken immediate effect.

  1. “Sanctuary state” status: Our blog has already written an article about this new law when it was first introduced, with many more details and researched facts. To recap, this law prohibits state and law enforcement agencies from detaining someone on federal immigration laws. Police are not allowed to ask about someone’s immigration status or arrest them based on their immigration rank.
  2. Landlords cannot report tenants to ICE: Landlords in California are hereby restricted from reporting any of their tenants to ICE, which is the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. They cannot do this based on vague suspicion, or from illegal researching on their own time. Landlords also cannot use a tenant’s immigration status to threaten to evict them from the property.
  3. Workplace immigration inspections are limited: Assembly Bill No. 450 has disallowed any California employer from permitting an ICE workplace inspection without an official warrant. Employers also have to inform employees within 72 hours of receiving a federal inspection notice.

These new immigration laws are extremely important for the state of California. They will help keep legal immigrants protected from unnecessary privacy searches, and they will also keep law enforcement in check when it comes to fair and justified immigration standards.

If you would like to know more about any California immigration news, or if you need an experienced immigration lawyer to help you with your US visa requirements, contact the Law Office of Sweta Khandelwal today for an appointment.

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How Did Trump’s Immigration Policy Affect Los Angeles’ Olympics Bid?

The Olympic games have been the biggest show of international sports for centuries. Whichever city holds the Summer Olympics every four years carries a noble responsibility for their country, and they are expected to represent their country by excelling in each Olympic sport. The United States hasn’t hosted the Summer Olympics since 1996 in Atlanta. Fortunately, three cities including Los Angeles had bid for their Olympic chance for 2024. Unfortunately, Los Angeles lost to Paris, but the City of Angels was rewarded the hosting for 2028 instead.

How Did Immigration Affect This Decision?

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who was a key player in the city’s 2024 bid, has spoken out multiple times about the new immigration policy. The executive order prohibited multiple Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, which would make hosting a worldwide international sporting event more difficult. Los Angeles has successfully hosted the games twice before, the last time being in 1984. Since then, however, the process of immigration and acquiring a visa has become increasingly more complicated.

Our country has had a history of banning immigrants for many years now. We’ve been banning Asian immigrant workers since the late 18th century, and since the Syrian conflict we’ve been trying to properly vet people coming out of the turbulent country. We’ve had multiple waves of severe immigrant bans in our country, and we’ve still been able to host the largest international entertainment event numerous times. The city of Los Angeles didn’t let the strict new immigration policy discourage it from attempting to bid for host of the Olympic games.

If you would like to know more about California’s immigration policies and immigration law, contact the law office of Sweta Khandelwal for a variety of immigration services and resources.

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Not Guilty! So Why Is This Undocumented Immigrant Still Being Deported?

It was the most controversial case of 2015. A 54-year-old undocumented immigrant shot and killed a 32-year-old woman while she was posing for pictures with her father. Politically, the case was used as an argument as to why immigration laws needed to be tightened, and border security increased. However, a not guilty verdict has turned this situation on its ear, and it has come to represent why proper immigration counsel is the only option for proper migration to the U.S.

Undocumented Immigrant Still Being Deported After Not Guilty Verdict

When arrested by police, the 54-year-old man didn’t deny that he had shot the woman in question, but he did claim that it was an accident. He told police that he found a .40-calibur Sig Sauer and picked it up when the weapon accidentally discharged. After being presented with the facts of the case, a jury agreed, and the man was found not guilty of the charge of murder.

This verdict has only increased the controversy around the case, but it wasn’t the only charge the jury ruled on. Before his arrest, this undocumented immigrant had just finished a federal prison sentence for entering the country illegally. Because of this, the 54-year-old was found guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

This verdict has allowed ICE to pursue deportation against the man. He has been deported five times already, and soon, immigrations services may send him away again. It is doubtful that he will ever be legally allowed in the country again.

Starting the legal process of immigration in this country can sometimes seem daunting, but having an experienced immigration attorney on your side can help. Entering the country through other channels will always put you in danger of deportation, which could tear your family apart. Consulting an attorney will provide you with options to keep you from being deported, and will allow you to become a productive citizen of the United States of America.

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Are Republicans Ready to Support Dreamers?

It’s no secret that right now, being an immigrant in our country is very difficult. Since taking office, the Trump administration has already started revamping legal immigration policy, which has caused paperwork to increase dramatically. However, not everyone in Washington is working against immigrants, and some support may be found in unexpected places.

Are Republicans Starting to Support Dreamers?

President Trump has already given Congress notice that on March 6, 2018 he will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. DACA, as it’s more widely known, helps undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country as children get jobs, Social Security numbers and helps them enroll in college. It’s estimated that some 800,000 undocumented immigrants—Dreamers—are enrolled in this program, and these enrollees are also temporarily protected from deportation. That means thousands could face deportation, but Congress is making an attempt to stop this from happening.

Bills like the “Dream Act” have been introduced by Congressional Democrats, but has seemingly been resisted by Republicans. However, House Speaker Paul Ryan has been meeting with his fellow Republicans to hammer out a deal that would be agreeable to both Democrats and the White House. Such a measure would save Dreamers, and they are hoping to roll out this plan with the latest spending budget bill at the end of the year. But there are several issues that each side will have to come to terms on.

The President says he will only sign legislation continuing DACA if it includes measures to increase border security. Some Republicans also wish to include measures that limit immigrant family members that can enter the country, and measures that encourage merit-based immigration policy. Negotiations are expected to be long and hard, but it does represent a hope that lawmakers may work something out before the March deadline.

Want to learn more? Rely on the Law Offices of Sweta Khandelwal to help clarify the confusion immigration policy can sometimes cause. We find solutions for families that need help.

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Why Are Big Companies Supporting Dreamers?

The Trump administration has made another move that will change the way immigration works moving forward. In September, it was announced that the administration would end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, also known as DACA. However, officials haven’t completely shut the door on Dreamers, as Congress was given a six-month deadline to come up with a solution to save some 690,000 DACA recipients from deportation. Now, as law makers try to put together a solution, the business sector is chipping in by supporting Dreamers during this complex process.

Companies Are Supporting Dreamers, But Why?

Over 60 trade organizations and companies are uniting to help Dreamers and push Congress to arrive at a solution that will save these young immigrants from deportation. Among these businesses are: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, General Motors, Google, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Microsoft and many more. They have launched a digital ad campaign asking for bipartisan legislation that secures the futures of Dreamers, and they want that legislation done this year.

DACA protects young undocumented individuals who were brought to this country as children by delaying deportation. It also allows them to get driver’s licenses, secure jobs and enroll in colleges. If these individuals were deported, the companies campaigning for Dreamers estimates that the economy could lose $215 billion from the country’s GDP as well as $24.6 billion in Social Security and Medicare contributions.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, during a special press event, reaffirmed the important role Dreamers in today’s society. He reaffirmed that these people have only known a life in America and love our country more than most. He believes they deserve an opportunity to be citizens, but some may be having difficulty in these tough political times.

Calling an immigration attorney could be a solution for many struggling to stay in this country legally. There are options you may not be aware of that the Law Office of Sweta Khandelwal can help with. Don’t be afraid to find the help that you need.

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California to Become “Sanctuary State.” What Does It Mean?

In early October 2017, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation that would vastly limit who state and local law enforcement agencies can hold, question and transfer at the request of federal immigration authorities. The bill, Senate Bill 54, will take effect in January, making California a “sanctuary state.”

Opponents of the bill have blasted it as “unconscionable,” including U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The bill contributes to an ongoing national debate on how much authority cities and states have when creating policy to prevent local officers from enforcing federal immigration law. Gov. Brown, in a signing message in support of the bill, noted that the bill does not actually prevent or prohibit Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from doing their jobs. President Trump’s immigration chief disagrees, saying it would hinder federal agents in their work and lead to at-large arrests in local neighborhoods and at work sites.

What SB 54 Does and Does Not Do

There are over 2 million estimated illegal immigrants in the state of California alone. SB 54 prohibits law enforcement agents from asking about a person’s immigration status as well as participating in any program that uses them as immigration agents. The bill does not prevent immigration agents from interviewing inmates in jails and does allow ICE access to law enforcement databases. The state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is exempt from many of these restrictions. Local law enforcement will also have access to an expanded amount of criminal conviction types to share and transfer.

The bill is likely to face legal challenges from opponents.

Sweta Khandelwal is located in San Jose, CA, and she has helped many deserving immigrants achieve their goal of becoming US residents/citizens. Contact the the Law Office of Sweta Khandelwal today.

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Trump Administration Attacks Immigration Policy

It’s no secret that the Trump administration has been cracking down on immigration, but some may be surprised at the extra hoops being added to the legal immigration policy. The paperwork for legal immigration is being doubled, tripled, or even more. Worse, the new forms and documents have incredibly vague yet complex questions.

Since January, the agency that reviews and processes immigrants’ applications, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), has lengthened 15 applications. This includes paperwork that is required to be completed by US Citizens. In total, the forms have gone from 72 pages to 162. The instructions of the respective forms have increased from 114 pages to 215. All in, that’s a whopping 191 pages of additional paperwork added in less than a year.

USCIS has no qualms over the paperwork.  It is their position that the same amount of time will be needed complete the new forms as compared to the old.  This includes the I-485 form, which is the form that allows an immigrant to adjust their status from a temporary to permanent resident, which increased from 6 to 18 pages. The instructions for the form went from 8 to an incredible 42 pages. Yet, the agency insists that immigrants will still be able to finish the new application in the same exact amount of time as the shorter versions. This, by itself, speaks to their attitude and approach towards immigration and immigrants.

While potential citizens are more than willing to undergo additional paperwork, many don’t have the money to hire an attorney. From asking vague questions that could apply to simple traffic tickets to full out arrest, to probing into your political preferences, these new questions are both vague and unnecessary.

While this may seem like just extreme and vague vetting, it’s more than that. If an answer is not answered precisely and correctly, it can be considered as “misrepresentation”, which will mean that the application can be denied, and/or the immigrant subject to deportation. This is just a sly way to avoid having to propose new legislation and achieve the same goal: severely limiting the number of new immigrants to the US.

Under the Trump administration, hiring a great immigration law attorney is the difference between being able to stay legally in the US, and being asked to leave.  

Sweta Khandelwal is located in San Jose, CA, and she has helped many deserving immigrants achieve their goal of becoming US residents/citizens. Contact the the Law Office of Sweta Khandelwal today.

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Green Card Hurdles Introduced By Trump Administration

Since his candidacy, Donald Trump has taken a hardline approach to immigration. His plan to apply “extreme vetting” to visitors and immigrants to the United States is already taking shape with a new interview mandate that will be required to obtain a green card.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services confirmed that immigration authorities will now require an in-person interview for some green card applicants. This interview will be necessary for anyone who is moving from an employment-based visa to a lawful permanent residency as well as visa holders who are family members of refugees and people who receive asylum in America.

This interview will be conducted during the provisional stage that precedes getting a green card and it’s expected to slow the process of getting a green card. The purpose of the in-person interview is allowing an USCIS officer to verify the information provided on the application, discover new and relevant information, and assess the applicant’s credibility.

In 2015 alone, about 168,000 immigrants in these categories received lawful permanent residency, according to the Department of Homeland Security. The vast majority previously held an employment-based visa.

The travel ban that Trump signed in January and revised in March called for the federal government to develop “uniform screening and standards” to identify terrorists and individuals who pose a risk. The order stated that an in-person interview could be considered part of the standards.

Technically, the in-person interview requirement is not new, but it has been waived for these categories of visa holders most of the time over the last decade. Waivers will no longer be granted under the new policy. Many of these candidates have been living and working in the US for more than a decade.

The interview requirement is almost guaranteed to increase the wait time for green card applicants. According to the USCIS tracking tool, staffers usually have a 6-month delay before applications are even processed.

Stephen Legomsky, USCIS chief counsel between 2011 and 2013, said that the interviews likely add “some marginal value” but it may not be enough to offset the additional workload. He also said the USCIS plans to speed up interviews by streamlining operations and boosting staff training.

According to USCIS, the interviews will be phased in for:

  • Refugees and asylee relative petitions (Form I-730) for beneficiaries who are in the U.S. and petitioning to join a principal asylum or refugee application
  • Adjustment of status applications based on employment (Form I-485)

The interviews will begin for these categories on October 1, 2017.  Contact the Law Office of Sweta Khandelwal to see how we can help you prepare for a USCIS interview.

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