Sunday, April 28, 2013

What can you do now, in case comprehensive immigration reform passes?

I've blogged before about a tentative passage date for comprehensive immigration reform. In that piece, I noted that a few sources have suggested that a Thanksgiving signing date by the President makes sense, given the numerous legislative hurdles facing any new major legislation, and the timing of congressional breaks. Further, the United States Citizenship and Immigration services (USCIS) would need (in my estimation) anywhere from 3-9 months to implement any new regulations and set up policies and procedures for the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants to join a path to citizenship. So in essence, we'd be looking at date sometime in early 2014 for people to apply for immigration reform benefits, assuming it becomes law. So there is a long ways to go.

But for those non-procrastinating individuals who like to get a head-start on any major project, what can you do now in order to take full advantage of any proposed relief by Congress? Well if comprehensive immigration reform is anything like the latest Administration program, Deferred Action for Early Childhood Arrivals ("DACA" or colloquially and mistakenly referred to as the "Dream Act") - the program that allows those who entered the US at young age and are generally in school/have graduated - then the documentary requirements will be quite challenging to meet.

For example, comprehensive immigration proposals from both the Senate and White House, have indicated there will be continuous residency requirements. In other words, you will have to prove that you've lived in the United States for a certain number of years. And no, your word will not be good enough. Applicants will likely have to produce written, credible evidence in the form of bank statements, W2s, rent receipts, school transcripts, mortgage payment receipts, credit card or utility bills, in order to satisfy the continuous residency requirement. While that may be easy for some people, others may have considerable difficulty procuring such documents. And requests for documents, say over 5 years old, may need to be acquired directly from the source, further adding to delays.

Next, comprehensive immigration reform, will in all likelihood, require that applicants not have extensive criminal backgrounds. Felonies will all but sure disqualify applicants from seeking relief under any proposed bill. If a person has a few misdemeanors, then odds are that the USCIS will want to see certified court dispositions (court records) or arrest records. These can take weeks to get and different courts have different procedures for acquiring such documents.

And we can't forget the English language requirement. While measuring one's ability to speak and understand English can take many forms, it will most likely be given as a written test for comprehensive immigration reform purposes. If your English isn't quite up to speed, it would wise to learn English ahead of any potential immigration reform (and, since English is the de facto national language of the United States, even if comprehensive immigration reform does not pass, it won't hurt you or your loved one to pick up some English).

While this list is by no means exhaustive, the aforementioned suggestions, if followed ahead of any immigration reform bill, may help you to be among the "first" of those who are at the "back of the line."  And while the complexity of applying remains unknown, if history has taught us anything with respect to immigration law, it will be tough to navigate and understand the various procedural requirements. Accordingly, it would be wise to seek out professional legal services to assist with what is likely to be a very long, detailed, and confusing application.

Keep in mind the above is for informational and hypothetical purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice. If you need legal advice on an immigration matter, you should speak to an immigration attorney. Please visit or call 949-440-3240. To view more of my blog entries, visit

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Boston Bombing's Impact on Comprehensive Immigration Reform

April 23, 2013: Last Monday's bombing of the Boston Marathon was a horrific act that claimed the lives of three people, injured well over 200 more, and disrupted a major US city for well over 3 days. In addition to disrupting the lives of hundreds of thousands of Bostonians, the bombings have cast a dark shadow on proposed comprehensive immigration reform, with some pundits claiming this could derail the whole process. This is due to the fact that the suspected bombers are from Dagestan and of Chechen descent, two very volatile and restive neighboring federal republics in Russia. The suspected bombers came to the US in the early 2000's seeking asylum, which was ultimately granted, with one of the bombers, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, actually naturalizing into an American citizen. Some lawmakers have claimed that the new proposed comprehensive immigration reform could lead to more security lapses and allow more would-be-terrorists into the country.

On Monday, in committee hearings over the immigration bill, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) accused opponents of the bill as to trying to exploit the bombings in order to derail comprehensive immigration reform. "Last week, opponents of comprehensive immigration reform began to exploit the Boston Marathon bombing" said Sen. Leahy, adding "I urge restraint in that regard...Let no one be so cruel as to use the heinous attacks of these two young men to derail the dreams and futures of millions of hard-working people."

His accusations were met angrily by Senate Republicans, with Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) arguing "I want you to take note of the fact that when you proposed gun legislation, I didn't accuse you of using the killings (referring to the shootings at Sandyhook Elementary School in Connecticut) as an excuse."

I've always believed there was going to be a fierce debate about comprehensive immigration reform, but adding this latest US terrorist attack into the mix, certainly muddies any eventual outcome. Immigration has always been a hot-button issue. From claims by unemployed American workers, to fears of crime, to questioning an immigrant's ability to assimilate and embrace American culture and traditions, there has always been plenty of avenues to oppose liberalizing immigration policies. But to have a major terrorist attack occur on US soil, the very week that Senators introduced a proposed immigration reform bill, is sure to galvanize opponents of comprehensive immigration reform and give them more ammunition to oppose a reformation of US immigration law.

I will continue to blog about the uncertain path to comprehensive immigration reform, along with other important news and developments concerning immigration law. In the meantime, if you have an immigration matter that requires a lawyer's services, please call 949-440-3240 or visit

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


April 17, 2013. After months of negotiating, speculation, and closed-room meetings, the Senate's bipartisan "Gang of Eight" released their version of a comprehensive immigration reform bill, clearing the first major hurdle in what is expected to be a long, fragile process. Within moments of release, criticism of the proposed legislation began pouring in from both the left and the right, with certain media outlets reporting that opponents would try to "kill the bill" with "poison pill" amendments or delay tactics.

The 844 page bill, officially known as the "Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act", addresses four principle areas: 1) Border Security; 2) Legalization and Legal Immigration; 3) Interior Enforcement (Employment Verification); and 4) Substantial Changes to Nonimmigrant Visas (temporary visas such as H1-B visas).

As to the most significant provision in the proposed legislation, border security, the bill would require the Department of Homeland Security to "secure the Southern border" with Mexico before any undocumented immigrant could begin the "path to citizenship". This provision is going to be key in winning over conservative members of Congress and is a two-part requirement: 1) "Persistent surveillance in High Risk Sectors along the Southern Border"; and 2) An Effectiveness Rate of 90% in a fiscal year for all High Risk Sectors along the Southern Border." Essentially, the Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, would have to certify that the border is secure by implementing fencing in high risk areas and placing additional border patrol agents, unmanned aerial surveillance, and electronic detection measures before the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants could begin the process of legalization.

Once the border is secure, those people who arrived in the United States before December 31, 2011 and have no felonies, have not been convicted of 3 or more misdemeanors, and have not unlawfully voted, among other things, could apply to get "Registered Provisional Immigrant Status" (RPI) and begin the 10 year process of becoming a lawful permanent resident, which would in turn then lead to eventual citizenship. In simple terms, the process to become legalized would take, at a minimum, 13 years or more, depending on if and when the Southern border becomes secure.

Other highlights of the bill include increasing the number of H1-B visas (temporary visas for those in specialty occupations, typically those who work in the IT industry) from the current 65,000 figure to 110,000 annually. Also, the bill would eliminate the backlog for employment and family-sponsored immigrant visas, a welcome relief to those who have been waiting upwards of 15 years for a chance to immigrate to the United States. All employers in the United States would also be required to use an enhanced version of the E-Verify system to check for legal status before employing new workers, with agricultural companies being subject to this rule. And last, there would be new visa categories, including a "W-Visa" for low-skilled workers, most likely aimed at farm workers.

This bill is in no way finalized, and the House version would need to be incorporated into a final comprehensive immigration reform bill, before Congress would be able to vote on its passage. There will likely be more obstacles in the weeks and months to follow, stay tuned for further developments. In the meantime, existing immigration laws continue to be enforced. If you or someone you know needs the services of an immigration lawyer, please visit or call 949-440-3240 for further assistance.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Senate's Comprehensive Immigration Reform Proposal Imminent

According to numerous sources from within Congress and the media, the "Gang of Eight's" comprehensive immigration reform proposal is set to be unveiled this week. According to a report from the "The Hill", sources have stated that the proposal will be released this Thursday, April 11, 2013.

There are conflicting accounts as to exactly how long the path to citizenship would take for the over 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. Most news organizations are reporting a 13 year path to citizenship, however other sources, including the Atlantic Wire, say that 20 years is realistic. The Wire's number comes from the fact that in order to begin processing these applications for legal status, the Mexican border would need to be secure. No, not what this administration considers "secure"- "secure" as in stopping 90% of all illegal crossings from the southern border with Mexico, not to mention the tens of thousands of people who "overstay" their nonimmigrant visas.

According to an April 10, 2013 Reuters article, border security would be linked to the path to citizenship and the standards would be set by Congress. At the onset, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would be tasked with preventing substantially all illegal border crossings. If, after five years, DHS was unable to meet border security criteria set up by Congress, then a commission would be set up to implement this secure border provision. Border security would be, sorry to use contractual lingo, a "condition precedent" to the path to citizenship. Only when the border was adequately secure, could undocumented immigrants apply for legal status and begin the arduous trek to citizenship.

Comprehensive immigration reform is no doubt linked to national politics. The Republicans fully understand that hey need the Hispanic vote in order to remain viable on a national stage. Strict border provisions have probably been introduced to appeal to the more conservative factions of the party in order to secure the necessary votes needed to ensure passage.

These are exciting times to be an immigration attorney, I for one anxiously await the final, publicly released proposal, and will be sure to write about its provisions when the "Gang of Eight" releases it.

For more information on this and other immigration matters, please visit

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

H1-B Visa Cap Already Met - Lottery to Decide the Fate

The much-sought after H1-B visa has already met the statutory 65,000 visa quota, all within a week, according to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This is the first time the cap has been met within one week of the initial filing period since 2008, highlighting the extreme importance of this nonimmigrant visa category. 20,000 cap-exempt H1-B visa applications were also received in this time period under the advance degree exception.

According to the USCIS, approximately 124,000 H1-B visa applications were filed during this initial filing period. Since only 65,000 H1-B visas can be allotted for any given fiscal year, this means that the USCIS will have to use a computer-generated system, or lottery if you will, to decide who will receive these coveted visas.

USCIS will reject visa petitions that are subject to the cap and are not selected, as well as petitions received henceforth.

With comprehensive immigration reform around the corner, many technology companies are hoping that the H1-B cap provisions are increased, as they were in 2001-2003 when Congress increased the H1-B cap to 195,000 (but was never reached). Businesses are desperate to fill specialized positions that US Citizens and Nationals are not qualified to, or unwilling to, work for. This means that they have no choice other than to look abroad to fill these critically needed positions.

If you have any questions about the H1-B process, employment-based immigration in general, or need other immigration law advice, please call 949-440-3240 or visit You are more than welcome to visit our Orange County office too located in Irvine, CA, but please call for an appointment first.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Immigration Reform By Thanksgiving?

According to an April 1, 2013 article posted by ABC News' Jim Avila, a comprehensive immigration reform bill coming out of Congress can be expected sometime around Thanksgiving. Sen. Charles Schumer D-NY seems ready to roll out a bill, crafted by the Senate's "Gang of Eight" this Monday, April 8. Over the weekend, Schumer mentioned that certain thorny issues, involving a guest worker visa program (the proposed "W-Visa") and tightening border security, had been agreed to in principle by business and labor leaders. Sen. Marco Rubio R-FL cautioned against such optimism however by stating immigration reform was not complete and that reform can't be rushed. Such mixed messages from Washington can be expected however, given the enormous political implications of comprehensive immigration reform, and the fallout expected from voters on the right.

Rubio aside, it does appear that immigration reform is moving forward and major hurdles have been overcome. If Schumer is to introduce a bill next Monday, the bill still needs to go to the full Senate for hearings. Sources expect a full vote on the Senate's bill to occur around June.

And the House's own "Gang of Eight" is also ironing out details on their own version of comprehensive immigration reform, with House sources stating that their version of the bill will be introduced about a week after the Senates. Insiders expect the House's comprehensive immigration reform bill to be voted on in the fall. Then both bills would need to be reconciled in conference committees, thereby giving a final vote and Presidential signature sometime around Thanksgiving, according to the ABC piece.

Expect more political wrangling in the days and weeks ahead, and by all means, do not assume, no matter what the press is reporting, that immigration reform is a done deal. One only needs to turn back the clock to 2007 to see how quickly reform, in this case immigration reform, can be derailed and forgotten about.

To learn more about immigration law or if you need help with an immigration matter, please visit or call 949-440-3240.