Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

On June 18, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to block President’s Trump attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for young immigrants.  This is a huge win for the 700,000 or more young immigrants who will retain work authorization and deportation protection.

DACA is an Obama-era program from 2012 that protects hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from deportation, if they do not present a risk to national security or public safety, and meet several key criteria.

The DACA program will reopen for new applicants.  To apply for DACA, individuals who demonstrate that they meet the following criteria will be eligible for deferred action for childhood arrivals, on a case-by-case basis AND can apply for work authorization in the U.S. if they meet the following criteria:

Were under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012;

Arrived in the United States before turning 16;

Continuously resided in the United States from June 15, 2007, to the present;

Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, as well as at the time of requesting deferred action from USCIS;

Entered without inspection before June 15, 2012, or any lawful immigration status expired on or before June 15, 2012;

On the date of the request, are in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED)

It is important to understand that deferred action is not a legal immigration status.  Deferred action is a discretionary decision by DHS (Department of Homeland Security) not to pursue enforcement against a person for a specific period. A grant of deferred action does not alter an individual’s existing immigration status or provide a path to citizenship.  Thus, deferred action cannot be used to establish eligibility for an immigration status that requires maintenance of lawful status. Deferred action, however, may allow a person to qualify for certain state benefits, such as driver license, though state requirements vary.


While deferred action does not cure any prior or subsequent period of unlawful presence, time in deferred action status is considered a period of stay authorized by the Secretary of DHS. An individual does not accrue unlawful presence while in deferred action status or while a DACA request is pending if the individual filed a request before reaching age 18. DHS can renew or terminate a grant of deferred action at any time.



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Public Charge Expanded to Deny Legal Immigration | End to Birth Tourism

The Trump administration implemented new rules in January 2020 that could make it more difficult for pregnant foreign nationals to travel to the United States using tourist visas to give birth to their child in the U.S. The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States.” So, parents do not need to be U.S. citizens – once a child is born in the U.S. then that child is a U.S. citizen, regardless of parent’s citizenship. The new rules attempt to crack down on “birth tourism,” or the practice of giving birth in the United States to obtain U.S. citizenship for a child.

On January 27, 2020, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court allowed the Trump administration to implement new rules designed to deny U.S. residency (or green cards) and admission to immigrants seen as a risk of becoming “public charges.” Many have criticized the new public charge rule as a “wealth test” to keep out non-white immigrants.

Under current immigration policies, public charge refers to individuals who are primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, like people who rely on cash assistance programs, or require long-term

care at the government’s expense. A person can be denied admission or a green card if they are ‘likely to become a public charge’ which means one who is likely to receive designated public benefits at any time in the future.

SEVEN-FACTOR TOTALITY OF CIRCUMSTANCES TEST: The final public charge rule sets forth seven factors an officer can consider in deciding the ultimate legal issue of whether the applicant is more likely than not to receive public benefits. Although the affidavit of support (Form I-864) is required to be completed by the Petitioner, it is no longer the only factor in considering whether the immigration will be a public charge or relied on government benefits.

The seven-factor totality of circumstances test involves what Gail.Law refers to as FEEL Age & Health:

Family Size

English Proficiency

Education, Certificates, License, Skills

Liabilities & Assets



WHO DOES PUBLIC CHARGE RULE AFFECT? It only applies to people applying for Permanent Residence through a U.S. citizen or permanent resident relative or for a visa to enter the United States.

ADJUSTMENT OF STATUS IN U.S. & OVERCOMING PUBLIC CHARGE RULE: Prior to the new rule, the focus of public charge determination has been the Affidavit of Support, Form I-864, filed by one or more sponsors. Now, the focus shifts from the sponsor and onto the intending immigrant.

Adjustment of status applicants are now required to file a new Form I-944, Declaration of Self-Sufficiency. Applicants who are determined to be inadmissible under the new public charge rule

will now be able to overcome that inadmissibility by posting a bond – but only if DHS invites them to do so. 

EMBASSY INTERVIEWS & OVERCOMING PUBLIC CHARGE RULE: All immigrant visa (green card) applicants appearing for their interview at the U.S. Embassy need to be aware that more documentary evidence (besides a Form I-864 affidavit of support) will be required to prevent a denial based on public charge at embassy interview. Applicants are advised to work with their lawyer to gather additional evidence to meet the seven-factor totality of circumstances test reference above. 

WHO DOES PUBLIC CHARGE RULE NOT AFFECT? Refugees and asylees, people with a U Visa, T Visa, Violence Against Women Act, or Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, DACA and TPS applicants, U.S. Citizens and permanent residents (or green card holders). 

DOES PUBLIC CHARGE RULE AFFECT A GREEN CARD HOLDER? No. Generally, people who already have a green card are not affected by public charge. There is no public charge test to renew a green card. Green card holders cannot be deported simply for using public benefits unless a fraud was committed in obtaining the public benefit. 

I WANT TO APPLY TO BECOME A U.S. CITIZEN, WILL IT HURT MY CASE IF I USE BENEFITS? No! There is no public charge test for naturalization, the process to become a U.S. citizen. 

WHAT IF MY CHILDREN OR OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS RECEIVE PUBLIC BENEFITS? The rule only considers benefits received by the person applying for permanent residence or the visa. Family members receiving benefits, like U.S. citizen children, will not count against you. 

EXEMPTION FOR THOSE WHO RECEIVE PUBLIC BENEFITS: The following categories of benefits received by a foreign national in the U.S. will not be deemed using “public benefits”

  • Emergency Medicaid;
  • Services provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act;
  • School-based services;
  • Benefits received by individuals under age 21; and
  • Benefits received by pregnant women



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Expedited Removal – Not see Judge

July 22, 2019 – The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on that it would vastly expand “expedited removal,” a provision of the law that permits the agency to rapidly deport certain individuals without an opportunity to see an immigration judge. Under the expansion, DHS can rapidly deport undocumented immigrants in the United States who crossed the border without a visa and have not resided in the United States for at least two years. This amounts to a nationwide “send them back” immigration policy.
Individuals who are subject to expedited removal don’t get a chance to go in front of an immigration judge to argue against their deportation. Instead, the decision about whether some can and should be deported under expedited removal is made by a single immigration enforcement officer, with the only review coming from the officer’s supervisor. Courts are generally prohibited from reviewing a deportation order done through expedited removal (except in very narrow circumstances) and only asylum seekers have a path to avoid expedited removal.

Previously, expedited removal applied only to those encountered within 100 miles of the border and within 14 days of entering the United States. Customs and Border Protection officers were the ones making decisions about whether people qualified for expedited removal. However, under the expansion, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) also would be able to carry out expedited removal determinations inside the United States.

As a result of this new expansion, ICE officers also would act as both judge and jury. A single officer and supervisor could determine whether individuals with significant ties to the United States should go through expedited removal and be deported without judicial review.

The new policy goes into effect on Tuesday, July 23. An estimated 300,000 people in the United States could now be at risk of arrest and deportation without the opportunity to see a judge. That doesn’t even consider people who may be erroneously placed in expedited removal proceedings. Individuals will have the burden of proving to ICE they have resided in the United States for two or more years.

Because expedited removal generally does not involve the safeguard of judicial review, legal immigrants and even U.S. citizens will be at much greater risk of wrongful deportation. Because ICE is casting its net wider, it’s more likely than ever that citizens will face arrests. And with expanded expedited removal taking away judicial review in some cases, the odds that a mistaken arrest could lead to a wrongful deportation will be even higher.

Congress created expedited removal in 1996 as a way to speed up the deportation process. Although Congress permitted the government to apply expedited removal to anyone in the United States within two years of entry, it did not require that. Expedited removal was first applied to individuals who came through ports of entry, then in 2002 it was expanded to people intercepted at sea or who arrive by boat. In 2004, the Bush administration expanded expedited removal to its current extent.

Under the current system, those who arrive at the border are generally subject to expedited removal. This permits the government to deport them without due process. But if a person expresses a fear of returning to their home country or asks for asylum, they are then referred to an asylum officer. If the asylum officer determines that a person has a credible fear of persecution, they are taken out of the expedited removal process and allowed to apply for asylum in immigration court. If the officer determines otherwise, the person is subject to rapid deportation.

Now, individuals throughout the United States could be put through this process. No one should get ripped from their home without the chance to go in front of a judge and argue why they should be allowed to stay.

The American Immigration Council and the ACLU already announced that they will sue to stop the expansion.



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NEW Citizenship Test Coming

WASHINGTON — U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is revising the current naturalization test with improvements to ensure it continues to serve as an accurate measure of a naturalization applicant’s civics knowledge and that it reflects best practices in adult education assessments. The goal is to create a meaningful, uniform, and efficient test that will assess applicants’ knowledge and understanding of U.S. history, government and values.

This spring, the former USCIS director signed the Revision of the Naturalization Civics Test Memorandum announcing the new citizenship test coming in 2021.

“Granting U. S. citizenship is the highest honor our nation bestows,” said USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli. “Updating, maintaining, and improving a test that is current and relevant is our responsibility as an agency in order to help potential new citizens fully understand the meaning of U.S. citizenship and the values that unite all Americans.”

In December 2018, USCIS formed a naturalization test revision working group with members from across the agency. The working group has been reviewing and updating the naturalization test questions. The working group will also assess potential changes to the speaking portion of the test. USCIS is soliciting the input of experts in the field of adult education to ensure that this process is fair and transparent. After careful analysis of the pilot, and thorough officer training, USCIS will set an implementation date in December 2020 or early 2021.

In Fiscal Year 2018, USCIS naturalized nearly 757,000 people, a five-year high in new oaths of citizenship. The naturalization test revision is a key part of preparing legal immigrants to fully exercise their rights and meet their responsibilities.


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Knock, Knock – Immigration at your door! Free Consultation

By Gail Seeram

During fiscal year 2017, U.S. Department of Homeland Security – Immigration & Custom Enforcement removed or deported 226,119 individuals from the United States. Contact Immigration Lawyer Gail Seeram for a free consultation if you are in deportation.

Unfortunately, many individuals don’t know what to expect if Immigration comes knocking at their door due to an expired visa/I-94, initiation of removal/deportation proceeding due to commission of a crime, or execution of a final order of removal/deportation. Also, Immigration can visit your job and detained you at your worksite. Recently, Immigration has engaged in numerous worksite raids at corporations that hire a large number of immigrants.

So, what are the DO’S and DON’TS if Immigration comes knocking at your door or job?

Be Respectful: Refer to the Immigration Officer as “Sir” or “Madam” or “Officer.” Though the Immigration Officer may not treat you with respect, you should show respect because the decisions regarding your detention, issuance of bond, or release initially rest in their hands.

Get the name of the Immigration Officer: ask the officer for his/her business card. If he/she is not willing to give you a business card, then casually ask for his/her name. Make a mental note or write down their name.

Ask the Immigration Officer where you are being taken: this is very important because in most states, Immigration has more than one detention center. As an immigration lawyer, I find it difficult to locate my clients when the family members cannot tell me where my client is being held. Sometimes, it takes 2-3 hours to call every detention center in the state to locate my client. Immigration is not always very helpful.

While being processed-ask to use the phone: the first place Immigration will take you is to an office where you will be fingerprinted and photograph. They will also ask you questions about your status and family member and create a “Record of Proceeding”. Also, they will serve you with a “Notice to Appear,” which initiates the removal/deportation process. Politely ask the Immigration officer if you can use the phone to call your family member to let them know you are safe.

Inform family member where you are & name of Immigration Officer: Once you get to speak with your family member, give them the name of the detention center you will be taken to and the name of the Immigration officer. This information will be helpful to the immigration attorney hired to represent you.

Do Not Sign any Documents: The Immigration Officer will present numerous documents to you for your signature. DO NOT SIGN ANY DOCUMENTS. Simply write, “Refuse to Sign” in the signature block. There have been numerous cases where immigrants sign documents not knowing that they are waiving a judicial hearing and choosing expedited removal/deportation. Once an attorney is retained to represent you, the attorney will review the documents and advise you of the legal ramifications of each document.

Do Not Submit to Threats by Immigration Officer: I have heard stories of Immigration Officers making threatening remarks such as “If you don’t sign these documents or cooperate, we will hold you here for 6-9 months” or “If you hire an attorney, we will deport you tomorrow”. Do not believe these statements. Removal/deportation is a process and takes at least 2-3 months with a final order or removal/deportation. Immigration Officers don’t like to see you hire an attorney because you will be advised of reliefs and waivers that will allow you to remain in the U.S. Additionally, they know that when an attorney is involved, they must be on their best behavior because the attorney will not hesitate to speak with their supervisor or file a complaint against the Department of Homeland Security.

Exercise Right for Bond Hearing: The Immigration Officer will ask you if you want a hearing to determine bond – always answer, “Yes”. Contact your family members and tell them to hire an immigration attorney to represent you at the hearing.

Be Patience: It is tough to be held in a detention center and to be away from your family. I always urge my clients to be patience with the process and don’t rush to give up and opt for removal/deportation without a hearing. In most cases, my clients that are held in detention are eligible for some type of relief from removal/deportation but we can only apply for such relief in immigration court. There is a 1-2 years backlog in the immigration court but when you are in detention center, your case can take 3-6 months.

Inform Immigration Officer of Special Dietary Needs or Medical Conditions: If you have special dietary or food needs (such as vegetarian), make sure you inform the immigration officer so they can make the proper arrangements for your food. Also, if you have any medical conditions and require daily medicine, advise the immigration officer so they can have your family bring your medicine or make arrangements for you to have your medicine at the detention facility.

Remember, at the end of the day, though Immigration Officers try to make you feel that they are trying to help you, they are more concerned with their job security and showing statistically that the U.S. is safer due to increased removal/deportation.

From Illegal Immigrant to Permanent Resident

Next Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court (with Trump new appointee, Justice Kavanaugh) will decide Nielsen v. Preap and determine whether thousands of longtime U.S. residents face indefinite detention without a hearing. Nielsen is a class action brought by a group of immigrants in the Ninth Circuit who have been or are being detained under 8 U.S.C. § 1226, a provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act. That section authorizes federal authorities to detain any alien who may be subject to “removal”—the technical term for deportation. That term covers a lot of immigrants—border-crossers arrested after entering the U.S. illegally, tourists or students who have overstayed their visas and lawful permanent residents who have committed certain crimes.

The issue to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court is whether a criminal alien becomes exempt from mandatory detention under 8 U.S.C. § 1226(c) if, after the alien is released from criminal custody, the Department of Homeland Security does not take him into immigration custody immediately.

The statute creates two classes of “removable” aliens—first, ordinary detainees who have NOT committed crimes but are facing removal on other grounds and second, “criminal aliens” facing removal because of criminal convictions.

For the “criminal alien” group, the statute says that “when the alien is released” from imprisonment, the government “shall take [him or her] into custody.” These immigrants get no bond hearing; they must be held in detention until their cases are resolved.

This is the issue in Nielsen v. Preap: It is not whether authorities can detain these aliens—they can. But does the statute really deny bond hearings to “criminal aliens” who have been released and has returned to a community, established a family and put down roots, and lived a blameless life since that brush with the law? In other words, can criminal aliens be detained indefinitely without bond ONLY when release from prison straight into ICE custody OR can criminal aliens be detained indefinitely without bond when release from prison straight into ICE custody AND even is released into the community and later apprehended by ICE.

For more information on Nielsen v. Preap,

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Did you know that your permanent U.S. resident status is considered conditional if it was based on a marriage of less than 2 years at the time residency was granted? U.S. immigration law was set up this way to protect against immigrants who married solely to evade immigration laws. Fortunately, the conditional nature of your resident status can be removed, and permanent status granted, by filing Form I-751: Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence and by meeting certain removing conditions.

I-751 Removing Conditions and How to File For Removal:

There are five I-751 removing conditions. One of the five conditions must be met in order to file for removal using Form I-751:

If you are still married to the U.S. citizen spouse after 2 years, you may file for removal, but spouses must file jointly for the removal.

You may file Form I-751 seeking a waiver from the joint filing requirement under the following grounds:

You are a widow/widower.

You are divorced or the marriage was annulled.

You are a child who cannot be included in your parents’ application.

You are the victim of domestic violence and/or extreme hardship by your U.S. spouse.

You can file Form I-751 at any time after the conditional residency has been granted but before the 2 years expiration of your status.

Filing For Removal Is Not An Option, It Is A Requirement

We want to stress the importance of filing Form I-751. Removing the conditions of your conditional residency is required if you wish to obtain a Green Card. If you do not file Form I-751 before your Conditional Green Card expires, your residency can be revoked and you are at risk of being deported.

Our Orlando immigration attorney recommends filing Form I-751 90 days before the second anniversary of your status as a conditional resident. Failure to do so can result in deportation proceedings being initiated against you.

If you are in the U.S. under conditional status and your 2-year expiration date is approaching, contact The Law Offices of Gail Seeram Immigration Law Firm for assistance. We can help you file Form I-751 properly and on time. If you have missed your 90-day filing date, we can help present your case to Immigration Services and/or appeal a ruling if your permanent residency has been denied.


We have seen longer delays by USCIS in the adjudication of Form I-751, Petitions to Remove Conditions on Residence, with adjudication trends currently longer than 12 months and interviews being scheduled to determine on-going marital relationship.

As of June 11, 2018, petitioners who file Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, or Form I-829, Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status, will receive a Form I-751 receipt notice that can be presented with their Form I-551, Permanent Resident Card, as evidence of continued status for 18 months past the expiration date on their Permanent Resident Card.

We are making the change from 12 to 18 months because current processing times for Form I-751 and Form I-829 have increased over the past year.

Additionally, we will issue new Form I-797 receipt notices to eligible conditional permanent residents whose Form I-751 or I-829 was still pending as of June 11, 2018. Those Form I-797 receipt notices will also serve as evidence of continued status for 18 months past the expiration date on petitioner’s Permanent Resident Card.

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Safety Plan For Immigrant Families in Light of Massive Expansion of Detention and Deportation in U.S.

“Effective immediately,” DHS shall faithfully execute U.S. immigration laws against “all removable aliens” and will no longer “exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement” – this directive is from the policy memorandum implemented on February 17, 2017 based on Trump’s Executive Order signed on January 25, 2017. Additionally, it directs DHS personnel to arrest, apprehend, and initiate enforcement actions against “any alien whom an immigration officer has probable cause to believe” has violated the immigration laws. This language makes clear that everyone is a priority and amounts to a widespread deportation plan. The Memorandum calls for a massive expansion in detention by requiring DHS to detain nearly everyone it apprehends including those with no criminal convictions.

Many illegal immigrants and green card holders are in a state of panic and fear as Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) has started to apprehend and detained individuals with final order of removals, green card holders convicted of deportable criminal offenses, green card holders charged (not convicted) with a criminal offense, illegal immigrants parole into U.S. with an order of supervisions, and illegal immigrants who entered within the past two years.

What is your safety plan? We recommend a safety plan for immigrant families and mixed status families in case of apprehension and detention. Here are steps that should be taken to establish a safety plan for immigrant families:

(1) Appoint a guardian to minor children. This should be a trusted adult who will care for your children and make decisions for your children while you are detained.

(2) Executive a power of attorney to someone who will take charge of your finances and bank account while you are detained. This person will have to pay your bills, rent, and legal fees while in detention.

(3) Safety store important documents such as passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, criminal records, etc. where easily accessible by children guardian or trusted family member.

(4) Talk to your children about your immigration status and steps they should take if you were to be apprehended and detained. Give children or trusted adult a list of important contact phone numbers of family members and friends in U.S. and abroad.

(5) Speak with immigration lawyer about your case and immigration options. If you are detained, make sure you ask to see a Judge and do not waive your right to a trial.

(6) If apprehended, you have the right to NOT SIGN any documents until you speak to an immigration lawyer.

With the exception of individuals with final orders of removal (who have seen the immigration judge), anyone apprehended and placed in deportation is entitled to due process (hearing in immigration court). Deportation is not an “overnight” process as court hearings have to be scheduled and ICE must coordinate with the deportee’s native country – making this process as long as 6 months – 1 year.

Gail Seeram has been chosen best lawyer 2016 and 2017 by Orlando Magazine.

Gail Seeram
1-877-GAIL-LAW / 407-292-7730.


With a record number of individuals being detained by ICE, it is important that detainees and their families know what to expect and detainee’s rights while at an ICE detention facility.

Gail Seeram has been chosen best lawyer 2016 and 2017 by Orlando Magazine.

Gail Seeram
1-877-GAIL-LAW / 407-292-7730.

Denaturalization a NEW reality for U.S. Citizens

Can you be denaturalized or have your U.S. citizenship taken away? YES, denaturalization based on fraud or wrongdoing is growing. Immigration has requested $207.6 million to hire agents to investigate marriage, visa, residency and citizenship fraud.

The U.S. government does have the power to take citizenship away from those to whom it’s been granted. And the Trump administration has made it clear that it intends to use that power to identify, and denaturalize, people who it feels won their citizenship based on fraud.
The Department of Justice has the power to file a denaturalization lawsuit against a naturalized citizen under two circumstances: first, if they obtained their citizenship illegally — i.e., they didn’t actually meet the legal requirements of citizenship — or, second, if they lied about or concealed something during the citizenship process that was relevant to their case. (As you can probably guess, what counts as relevant — in legal terminology, “material” — is the source of a lot of questions about when denaturalization is appropriate.) They also have the option to charge someone criminally for fraud in naturalization.

If the government prevails in court, the immigrant reverts from being a US citizen to being a lawful permanent resident (green card holder). And green card holders can be stripped of their legal status, and deported, without a court hearing if they’re found to violate the terms of their status (for example, committing certain crimes).

If the government prevails in court, the immigrant reverts from being a US citizen to being a lawful permanent resident (green card holder). And green card holders can be stripped of their legal status, and deported, without a court hearing if they’re found to violate the terms of their status (for example, committing certain crimes).

Gail Seeram
1-877-GAIL-LAW / 407-292-7730.

Asylum Seekers who Fear Domestic Abuse or LGBTQ Persecution Ineligible for U.S. Asylum

Asylum seekers can no longer seek asylum in the U.S. citing fears of domestic abuse, gang violence or fear as a LGBTQ individual . On June 11, 2018, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions referred a Board of Immigration Appeals case to himself and issued a decision stating members of particular “social groups,” including domestic violence victims and LGBTQ individuals cannot file a petition for asylum. He reversed an immigration appeals court ruling that granted it to a Salvadoran woman who said she had been sexually, emotionally and physically abused by her husband (Matter of AB-, 27 I&N Dec. 227 (A.G. 2018)).
Asylum, the right to remain in the country,requires proof that an immigrant faces persecution because of his or her race, religion, nationality, political views or membership in a particular social group. It includes private abuses that the home government is unable or unwilling to control.
“The asylum statute does not provide redress for all misfortune,” U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said. “The mere fact that a country may have problems effectively policing certain crimes — such as domestic violence or gang violence — or that certain populations are more likely to be victims of crime, cannot itself establish an asylum claim.”
Sessions’ decision is binding on immigration courts, but could be challenged in the federal appeals court in Richmond, Va.
Doctors Without Borders, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization that provides medical aid to refugees, called Sessions’ ruling “a death sentence” for many of its patients.

Gail Seeram has been chosen best lawyer 2016 and 2017 by Orlando Magazine.

Gail Seeram
1-877-GAIL-LAW / 407-292-7730.

Orlando-area immigrants in ‘state of panic’ over zero-tolerance policy, attorney says

This country has never had a history of separating families from children‘
The Trump administration’s “zero tolerance policy,” which separates immigrant children from their parents at the borders, is having an impact in Central Florida, according to a local immigration attorney Gail Seeram.
“I have many legal and illegal immigrants that are in a state of panic,” Seeram said. “They’re worried. They want to secure their status in the United States.”
Seeram said even her clients who have green cards are now concerned about their status.
“I find a lot more permanent residents are actually applying for U.S. citizenship, because they want to make sure they won’t be deported and forced to leave this country,” she said.
While Central Florida doesn’t have a border, it does have many people who are here illegally.
“If you are here illegally, and ICE gets a tip that an illegal person is living at this house, ICE can come and apprehend you,” Seeram said.
When people are taken into custody for immigration violations in Orlando, there is no federal facility to hold them so they are often held at county jails before being transported to facilities in Jacksonville and South Florida, according to Seeram.
Then the court process begins.
It can be months or sometimes years before someone goes through the process and is finally deported, according to Seeram.
She says, seeing small children away from their parents that long is disturbing.
“I don’t think it’s healthy for the child and healthy for the family to be separating these families in such a manner,” she said. “This country has always had a history of families immigrating, but this country has never had a history of separating families from children.”
– Interview with Louis Bolden – Click Orlando

Gail Seeram has been chosen best lawyer 2016 and 2017 by Orlando Magazine.

Gail Seeram
1-877-GAIL-LAW / 407-292-7730.

Five Ways Trump Successfully Cut Immigration Benefits

“When it comes to putting immigrants on a path to deportation, it doesn’t seem to matter how long they’ve been here, the conditions they fled in the first place, the contributions they have made or the impact on their families, employers and communities, or the fact that they’ve had legal status for years and years,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, a progressive immigration reform advocacy group. “The bottom line seems to be this: get ready to get out; this is especially true if you are from what the president calls ‘shithole countries,’ ” he added. The termination of special protection programs show that Trump and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen are “intent on driving millions of immigrants out of the country.”

#1: DACA
In September 2017, Trump ended Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the decision directly affected around 690,000 so-called Dreamers — immigrants who arrived in the country illegally as minors who were given an employment card and deportation protection.
The 690,000 pre-enrolled DACA recipients can currently maintain and renew their two-year permits thanks to a federal court order against Trump’s move to end the program. But uncertainty over the program’s future has created a slew of other issues for the program’s beneficiaries.
#2: TPS
Under Trump, the Department of Homeland Security has announced the end of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 260,000 Salvadorans, 60,000 Haitians, 5,000 Nicaraguans and a few hundred Sudanese. Salvadoran TPS has been renewed every 18 months since 2001, after two earthquakes hit the country. TPS allows citizens of countries that are going through man-made or natural disasters to live and work in the United States.
#3: ICE
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the federal government’s top immigration law enforcement agency. Under Trump, the agency has become “unshackled,” allowing it to prioritize for deportation immigrants who were deemed out of bounds by previous administrations. ICE can no longer use prosecutorial discretion to stop or pause deportation so the deportee can remain united with his U.S. citizen spouse or minor child. Trump implementation of the Criminal Alien Program also denies bond to permanent residents facing criminal cases (even though not convicted and simple charged with deportable offense). Trump has also placed new performance matrix on immigration judges creating unattainable timeframes for completing an immigration case resulting in a deportation mill at the immigration court.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the agency that grants visas, permanent residency and citizenship to foreign applicants. Under Trump, USCIS Director Francis Cissna changed the agency’s mission statement, removing references to the United States as a “nation of immigrants” in favor of language about “protecting Americans.”
USCIS is considering a proposal to tighten the rules on foreign citizens’ use of tax breaks and welfare programs, said Tyler Houlton, a spokesman for Homeland Security. If the White House approves the proposal, foreigners on visas or with permanent residency could be barred from using popular tax breaks, like the earned income tax credit or public health subsidies.
#5: Refugees and travel ban
Trump issued an executive order in January 2017 banning the entry of citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries to the United States. The so-called travel ban was blocked by three courts using Trump’s public statements as evidence that it unfairly targeted Muslims. But after each reversal in court, the administration released a new set of rules to impose a travel ban that could pass constitutional muster. The Supreme Court is scheduled to permanently rule on the travel ban’s constitutionality in early May 2018.

Gail Seeram has been chosen best lawyer 2016 and 2017 by Orlando Magazine.

Gail Seeram
1-877-GAIL-LAW / 407-292-7730.

Signature REQUIRED for Green Card & Work Permit Upon Delivery

Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today that the agency will begin phasing in use of the U.S. Postal Service’s (USPS) Signature Confirmation Restricted Delivery service to mail Green Cards and other secure documents beginning April 30, 2018.
The first phase will affect documents that need to be re-mailed because they have been returned as non-deliverable. These documents include Permanent Resident Card (also called Green Card), Employment Authorization Cards, and Travel Booklets. Applicants who have changed mailing addresses during the course of the application process are more likely to have their secure documents sent with the new delivery method, which USCIS will expand to all secure documents in the future.
As part of the new delivery method, applicants must present identification to sign for their documents upon delivery. They also have the option to designate an agent to sign on their behalf by completing the Postal Service’s PS Form 3801, Standing Delivery Order (PDF) or PS Form 3801-A, Agreement by a Hotel, Apartment House, or the Like (PDF). Applicants can sign up for USPS Informed Delivery to receive delivery status notifications. Applicants will also have the option to arrange for pickup at a post office at a convenient date and time by going to the USPS website and selecting “hold for pickup.”
Signature Confirmation Restricted Delivery increases the security, integrity, and efficiency of document delivery. The Signature Confirmation Restricted Delivery process provides better tracking and accuracy of delivery information, improving service to applicants.

Gail Seeram has been chosen best lawyer 2016 and 2017 by Orlando Magazine.

Gail Seeram
1-877-GAIL-LAW / 407-292-7730.


Nearly 700,000 young immigrants who have no legal status in the U.S. benefit from #DACA and have valid employment cards so they can work and attend college. All DACA recipients have no criminal history and are law abiding young immigrants who entered the U.S. under the age of 15.

The Trump administration announced on September 5, 2017 the orderly phase out of the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) that was initiated by President Obama. To date, no legislation has been introduced or passed extending DACA. However, as of January 13, 2018, due to a two U.S. District Court decision, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) has resumed accepting requests to renew a grant of deferred action under #DACA.

The #DACA battle will have to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court – whether #Trump has authority to end #Obama executive order granting #DACA.

Gail Seeram has been chosen best lawyer 2016 and 2017 by Orlando Magazine.

Gail Seeram
1-877-GAIL-LAW / 407-292-7730.

Asylum Backlog – Recent Filings Interviewed FIRST Ahead of Older Filings

American flag, US constitution and a judge’s gavel symbolizing the American justice system or the Judicial Branch of government ( Judiciary )
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today that the agency will schedule asylum interviews for recent applications ahead of older filings, in an attempt to stem the growth of the agency’s asylum backlog. Returning to a “last in, first out” interview schedule will allow USCIS to identify frivolous, fraudulent or otherwise non-meritorious asylum claims earlier and place those individuals into removal proceedings.

In some cases, immigrants file asylum applications, knowing it is a 3-6 year backlog for an interview and in the meanwhile, they get employment authorization. “Delays in the timely processing of asylum applications are detrimental to legitimate asylum seekers,” said USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna. “Lingering backlogs can be exploited and used to undermine national security and the integrity of the asylum system.”

The agency currently faces a crisis-level backlog of 311,000 pending asylum cases as of Jan. 21, 2018, making the asylum system increasingly vulnerable to fraud and abuse. This backlog has grown by more than 1750 percent over the last five years, and the rate of new asylum applications has more than tripled.
To address this problem, USCIS will follow these priorities when scheduling affirmative asylum interviews.

TPS or temporary protected status is granted to individuals in the U.S. who cannot return to their country due to natural disasters (such as earthquake or hurricane), ongoing armed conflict (such as civil war) or extraordinary and temporary conditions. The Trump administration has announced the ending of TPS for the following countries:
Haiti – TPS ends July 22, 2019

El Salvador – TPS ends Sept. 9, 2019

Nicaragua – TPS ends Jan. 5, 2019

Honduras – TPS ends July 5, 2018

In October-November 2017, the Immigration Court number of pending cases climbed by an additional 30,000. According to the latest case-by-case court records, the backlog at the end of November 2017 had reached 658,728, up from 629,051 at the end of September 2017.

Gail Seeram has been chosen best lawyer 2016 and 2017 by Orlando Magazine.

Gail Seeram
1-877-GAIL-LAW / 407-292-7730.

ICE Tracing License Plates

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has gained access to a nationwide license plate recognition database from Vigilant Solutions. The system gives ICE access to billions of license plate records and new powers of real-time location tracking for vehicles owned by individuals ICE is seeking to apprehend.
The result is a massive vehicle-tracking network generating as many as 100 million sightings per month, each tagged with a date, time, and GPS coordinates of the sighting. ICE agents would be able to query that database in two ways. A historical search would turn up every place a given license plate has been spotted in the last five years, a detailed record of the target’s movements. That data could be used to find a given subject’s residence or even identify associates if a given car is regularly spotted in a specific parking lot.

ICE agents can also receive instantaneous email alerts whenever a new record of a particular plate is found — a system known internally as a “hot list.” (The same alerts can also be funneled to the Vigilant’s iOS app.) This is particularly troubling given ICE’s recent move to expand deportations beyond criminal offenders, fueling concerns of politically motivated enforcement. In California, state officials have braced for rumored deportation sweeps targeted at sanctuary cities. In New York, community leaders say they’ve been specifically targeted for deportation as a result of their activism. With automated license plate recognition, that targeting would only grow more powerful.

Gail Seeram has been chosen best lawyer 2016 and 2017 by Orlando Magazine.

Gail Seeram
1-877-GAIL-LAW / 407-292-7730.

100 Immigration Judges at Detention Facilities

The Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) today released statistics on the impact of Executive Order (EO) 13767: Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements, which called for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to assign immigration judges to immigration detention facilities. GailLaw is seeing immigration cases at detention facilities being streamlined or moving fast and individuals being removed through removal orders much faster than in the past.
Pursuant to the President’s Executive Order, over 100 immigration judges have been mobilized to Department of Homeland Security detention facilities across the country, including along the southern border. This mobilization includes both in-person assignments and dockets heard via video teleconferencing (VTC). Comparing the results of the surge to historical scheduling and outcome data, EOIR has projected that the mobilized immigration judges have completed approximately 2,700 more cases than expected if the immigration judges had not been detailed.
This means that completed cases by detailed immigration judges have outpaced expected home court deferrals, resulting in a positive net effect on the nationwide caseload. Also, immigration judges mobilized to surge sites completed approximately 21 percent more cases on detail than the historical, expected performance of nondetailed immigration judges at the same base locations. “EOIR is pleased with the results of the surge of immigration judges to detention facilities and the potential impact it has on the pending caseload nationwide,” said Acting Director James McHenry. “The Justice Department will continue to identify ways in which it can further improve immigration judge productivity without compromising due process.”
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA) have created a new partnership where foreign nationals can now apply for work authorization and a social security card using a single form – the updated Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.

Social Security Card Issued Automatically with Employment Authorization Document

To lawfully work in the United States, foreign workers in some categories and classifications need both an employment authorization document (EAD) from USCIS, and a Social Security Card from the SSA. Previously, applicants needed to submit a Form I-765 to USCIS for an EAD, and then submit additional paperwork in-person at their local Social Security office to obtain an social security card and number.
Now, applicants can apply for a social security card or replacement card without visiting a Social Security office. Effective immediately, USCIS will transmit the additional data collected on the Form I-765 to the SSA for processing. Moving forward, applicants who receive their approved EADs from USCIS should receive their Social Security card from SSA within the following two weeks.

Gail Seeram has been chosen best lawyer 2016 and 2017 by Orlando Magazine.

Gail Seeram
1-877-GAIL-LAW / 407-292-7730.

DACA ends March 2018 – Steps moving forward…

On Sept. 5, 2017, the Trump administration announced the orderly phase out of the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) that was initiated by President Obama. Nearly 700,000 young immigrants who have no legal status in the U.S. benefit from DACA and have valid employment cards so they can work and attend college. All DACA recipients have no criminal history and are law abiding young immigrants who entered the U.S. under the age of 15. The Trump administration has indicated that he is willing to provide some protection to young immigrants but he wants Congress to pass a bill into law. To date, no such legislation has been successfully passed into law and that is why President Obama executed an executive order implementing DACA. Below are common questions about the DACA expiration.

Questions about DACA/Employment Card Phase-out:


  1. Can I renew my DACA before it ends in March 2018? Yes, if your DACA expires between Sept. 5, 2017, and March 5, 2018, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services must receive your properly filed I-821D DACA renewal request on or before Oct. 5, 2017.
  2. What is my DACA expired before September 5, 2017 and I did not submit a renewal application? The DACA process is no longer available to you and you cannot file for renewal.
  3. What can I do is I lost my DACA employment card?  You can file to replace your lost DACA employment card.
  4. What will happen to current DACA holders? Current DACA recipients will be permitted to retain both the period of deferred action and their employment authorization documents (EADs) until they expire, unless terminated or revoked. DACA benefits are generally valid for two years from the date of issuance.
  5. When DACA ends, will those cases be referred to ICE for enforcement/deportation? Information provided to U.S. Citizenship and
  6. Can DACA recipients apply for advance parole to travel outside the U.S.? Effective September 5, 2017, USCIS will no longer approve any new Form I-131 applications for advance parole.  USCIS will administratively close all pending Form I-131 applications for advance parole under standards associated with the DACA program, and will refund all associated fees.
  7. What is breakdown of DACA expiration due to DACA phase-out? From August through December 2017, 201,678 individuals are set to have their DACA/EADs expire. In calendar year 2018, 275,344 individuals are set to have their DACA/EADs expire. From January through August 2019, 321,920 individuals are set to have their DACA/EADs expire.

Gail Seeram has been chosen best lawyer 2016 and 2017 by Orlando Magazine.

Gail Seeram
1-877-GAIL-LAW / 407-292-7730.

New Policy: Marriage Fraud presumed if marry within 90 days on entry into U.S.

As of 09/18/2017, in a significant change of policy, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson wrote that visitors who enter the U.S. must follow through on their “stated plans” for at least three months. “Stated plans” means what they listed on their B-1/B-2 application, what they told the interviewing officer at the Embassy, and what they told the Custom and Border Protection (CBP) officer when they entered the U.S. at the airport.

If a visitor does something inconsistent with what they told the consular official or CBP officer — such as marry an American citizen, go to school or get a job — it will be presumed that they have deliberately lied or committed a fraudulent misrepresentation to gain an immigration benefit. Such a lie would result in revocation of the B-1/B-2 visa, denial of a change in status, and possible deportation from the U.S. A “lie” would also include booking an airline ticket for two weeks and stating to a CBP officer you will stay only two weeks in the U.S. and then once arrive in the U.S. changing your airline ticket to a longer period of time such as 3-6 months.

Changes of plans that occur after three months may still raise red flags and but are not presumed to be the result of “willful misrepresentation,” the cable said. Under previous rules, a change in plans was deemed to be a fraudulent misrepresentation only for the first month after arrival in the United States.

“If someone comes to the U.S. as a tourist, falls in love and gets married within 90 days and then applies for a green card, this means the application would be denied,” said Diane Rish, the associate director of government relations at the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “This is a significant policy change.”

But the new rule does not generally apply to citizens of 38 countries — including most of Europe and longstanding allies like Australia, New Zealand and Japan — who do not need a visa or an explicit travel, business or educational plan before coming to the United States.

Gail Seeram has been chosen best lawyer 2016 and 2017 by Orlando Magazine.

Gail Seeram
1-877-GAIL-LAW / 407-292-7730.

First Steps to Attaining U.S. Citizenship in Orlando

The Naturalization process is required if you want to become a U.S. citizen. Our immigration law office helps many clients attain citizenship in Orlando every year. We are honored to be a part of this exciting time in our clients lives and do our very best to make the process as smooth and simple for you as possible.

Here’s a quick look at the first steps you’ll need to complete in order to become a U.S. citizen.

Early Requirements For U.S. Citizenship Via Naturalization

Be 18 years of age or older.
Have held a Permanent Green Card for at least 5 years.
Able to read, write and speak basic English.
Be of good moral character.
If you meet these four criteria, you can get started on your Naturalization process! The 10-step Naturalization process starts with filing Form N-400 “Application for Naturalization”.

What to Expect of the U.S. Naturalization Process

After you submit Form N-400, you will be contacted to arrange an interview and an English and Civics test. Once approved, you can take part in a naturalization ceremony and take the Oath of Allegiance!

Gail Seeram Helps Immigrants Attain Citizenship In Orlando

Immigration attorney, Gail Seeram, helps immigrants complete their Naturalization paperwork accurately and completely, ensure they meet all Naturalization eligibility requirements, and can provide moral support or clarification during the citizenship interview process. Attorney Seeram’s advice and assistance can ensure your application is not rejected or delayed due to missing or inaccurate information and that you have met all of the necessary requirements for becoming a U.S. citizen.

Gail Seeram has been chosen best lawyer 2016 and 2017 by Orlando Magazine.

Gail Seeram
1-877-GAIL-LAW / 407-292-7730.

Fight Removal With Help From a Deportation Lawyer

If you have been notified that you are to be deported from the U.S. you may think there is no way you can avoid deportation, but that is not necessarily true. Immigration attorneys help their clients fight deportation and removal regularly. A deportation lawyer:

– Investigates the charges against you to ensure accuracy,
– Helps build your defense,
– Presents your case in front of the immigration judge, and
– Helps fill out all of the necessary forms to fight deportation.

Deportation Defense

Gail Seeram is an Orlando immigration attorney with over 17 years of experience. She focuses exclusively on immigration law and helps hundreds of clients in the U.S. every year.

Deportation does not happen right away. There is a removal process that must be followed and you will have a chance to present your side of the situation. You stand a far better chance of convincing the immigration judge to rule against deportation if you have an immigration attorney helping you!

Immigration judges must rule on the evidence they are presented with. They cannot do research for you. They cannot build a legal argument for your case. They will not know anything about your circumstances beyond what you present. These are all things that our immigration lawyer will do for you.

Attorney Seeram will research the charges against you. She will examine all possible defense option. She will present evidence and arguments in your favor to the judge.

There are many ways you might be able to remain in the U.S. with an immigration attorney’s help. You may qualify for asylum. You may qualify for a Green Card. The charges against you may be false or inaccurate and thus invalidate the deportation.

The one thing we want you to remember is that you have options and you are not alone!

If you have received notice that you are to be deported or if you have been detained by ICE, contact our Orlando immigration law office right away. We will quickly evaluate your situation and recommend a best course of action to protect you and your family.

Gail Seeram has been chosen best lawyer 2016 and 2017 by Orlando Magazine.

Gail Seeram
1-877-GAIL-LAW / 407-292-7730.

Immigration Reform Under Trump – Impossible!

Trump’s recent actions and words indicate that immigration reform under Trump presidency will be impossible. His latest pardon of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a racist who violated the Constitution in his mad pursuit of illegal immigrants is a strong indication of Trump stand on immigration – apprehending illegal immigrants even if in violation of the Constitution. Also, Trump is threatening a government shutdown in terms of not approving the budget if the U.S.-Mexico border wall is not built.

In 2006, Congress unsuccessfully tried passing an immigration bill that required undocumented immigrants to pay a fine and any back taxes to apply for a six-year worker visa but the House did not vote to pass the bill. Again, in 2013, an immigration bill that would grant a 13 year path to citizenship to unauthorized immigrants did not get enough votes to become law.

Immigration reform under Trump is highly unlikely since his priority is appealing to his “America First” base, who have forgotten that their great-grandparents or great-great-grandparents were also immigrants. The only immigration reform under Trump is the inhumane treatment of humans whose only mistake is seeking a better life in the greatest country in the world!

Expanded in-person interviews

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin expanding in-person interviews for certain immigration benefit applicants whose benefit, if granted, would allow them to permanently reside in the United States. This change complies with Executive Order 13780, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.” More interviews being scheduled means longer delays in receiving interview appointments.

Orlando Field Office Processing Time

The chart below reveals the processing delays in Orlando Field Office. They are working on citizenship applications filed in September 2016 (11 month backlog) and I-485 applications filed in October 2016 (10 month backlog). Please be patience as we are also working through this backlog/delay under the Trump administration.

Gail Seeram has been chosen best lawyer 2016 and 2017 by Orlando Magazine.

Gail Seeram
1-877-GAIL-LAW / 407-292-7730.

Re-entry After Deportation is Possible Under Certain Circumstances

You may think that deportation is the end of your chances for a life in the United States, but re-entry after deportation is possible if you meet certain criteria.

2 Ways To Qualify For Re-Entry After Deportation

Timing Requirements. The first thing to keep in mind if you want to apply for re-entry after deportation is how long ago you were deported. Anyone who has been deported must wait 5, 10, or 20 years (unless the deportation is permanent) before they can apply for re-entry. How long you much wait to apply for re-entry depends on the reasons you were deported in the first place. Re-entering the country before this time period has passed could complicate your situation and make re-entry more difficult or even make your deportation permanent.
If you do not meet the timing requirements, there may still be ways for you to re-enter the U.S. legally:

Form I-212. Form I-212 “Permission to Reapply For Admission Into the United States After Deportation or Removal” may be submitted if you have a new or separate basis for a Visa or Green Card application. Also known as a waiver request, Form I-212 essentially requests that immigration authorities overlook the grounds for your deportation and give you a second chance.
Form I-601. Form I-601 “Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility” is another type of waiver application. This form can be used by immigrants who have been deemed “inadmissible” to the U.S. for many different types of reasons and must usually be filed in conjunction with Form I-212. Form I-212 removes the removal restrictions and Form I-601 removes the grounds for removal.

Help From An Immigration Attorney Is Essential

Re-entry after deportation is a complex process and the slightest misstep could end your chances to return to the United States. It is vital to the success of your application that you get help from an experienced immigration attorney to prove to U.S. Immigration Services that you are deserving of a second chance.

As a foreign national, you will not be provided with an attorney to represent you; you must hire one yourself.

Our Orlando immigration attorney, Gail Seeram, handles re-entry and deportation cases regularly. She ensures that each applicant has all of the necessary documentation in order and helps her clients lay out the best case possible for re-entry.

Gail Seeram
1-877-GAIL-LAW / 407-292-7730.

28% Increase in Orders of Removal Under Trump

Between the time President Donald Trump took office earlier this year and the end of July, nearly 50,000 unauthorized immigrants were ordered removed from the U.S., a 28 percent increase over last year, according to statistics released Tuesday by the immigration review branch of the U.S Department of Justice.

The DOJ’s Executive Office of Immigration Review collected the data, which also indicated that total orders of removal combined with voluntary departures by immigrants in the U.S. between Feb. 1 and July 31 were up close to 31 percent over that same period last year. Final decisions issued by immigration judges also rose 14.5 percent during that time frame this year, the DOJ statement, which featured only timeline statistics, said on Tuesday.

Between Feb. 1 and July 31 this year, 49,983 unauthorized immigrants were ordered removed, compared to 39,113 last year. Another 7,086 unauthorized immigrants agreed to voluntarily depart the U.S., bringing the total removal and voluntary departures so far this year to 57,069. The total orders of removal and voluntary departures in that same six months last year was 43,595.

There was also a total of 73,127 final decisions issued by immigration judges between February and the end of July this year, compared to 63,850 issued in that window last year.

The boost in orders of removal over last year could be the product of Trump’s signing of an executive order on Jan. 25 requiring more stringent enforcement on immigration.

The order called for the hiring of 10,000 more immigration officers, targeted funding for so-called sanctuary cities and revived a controversial information sharing program known as Secure Communities, which allows fingerprints of arrested individuals to be checked against U.S. Department of Homeland Security databases.

According to the DOJ statement on Tuesday, the agency mobilized more than 100 existing immigration judges to DHS detention facilities across the country after Trump signed his Jan. 25 order. More than 90 percent of the cases those new judges oversaw resulted in orders or removal requiring unauthorized immigrants to depart or be removed, the DOJ said.

The Justice Department has also hired an additional 54 immigration judges since Trump took office “and continues to hire new immigration judges each month,” its statement said.

Gail Seeram
1-877-GAIL-LAW / 407-292-7730.

What Are Your Options When You Are Denied An Immigrant Visa (I-130) To The U.S?

Being denied an immigrant visa I-130 to the U.S. can be a devastating setback to your family’s plans for the future, but it doesn’t have to be the end. You’ll be happy to know that just because your application has been denied does not mean you must accept the denial. You have options that can be explored to have your application reconsidered. This is true whether you were located within the United States or outside of the U.S. when you filed the application.

Reasons For Denial

Sometimes I-130 applications are denied due to simple mistakes or missing paperwork. At other times, denials are due to more serious issues. In either case, you will benefit from the help of an experienced Orlando immigration attorney. An immigration attorney can evaluate the situation that led to the denial and recommend steps to correct the problem and, hopefully, have the denial reversed.

Options After An Immigrant Visa Denial

In general, you have two options once an immigrant visa has been denied: appeal the decision or file a new application.

Option 1:

Appeal the Decision. Appeals are directed to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) when the application was filed from within the U.S. The process is as follows:

1. Applicant must file a notice of appeal with its corresponding payment.

2. The BIA sends applicant a briefing schedule. This briefing schedule gives you time to submit a legal brief describing your arguments in support of the appeal. If the legal brief is not sent on time, the appeal is dismissed and you lose your case.

3. Once the legal brief is received by the BIA, the Board will need some time to review the case and make a decision. The total BIA process can take between 8 and 12 months or longer, depending on the complexity of the situation.

4. Once the BIA makes a decision, the case is over. However, in certain cases, you may appeal the BIA decision to the U.S. Federal Court for the Circuit where you live. Again, you have 30 days to file such an appeal.

If you filed your I-130 from outside the U.S. the process is slightly different. In that case, you will need to ask the principal consular officer to review your case. If the officer upholds the decision to deny the application, there is no appeal available, but you can usually start over again by refiling the I-130 petition.

Option 2:

New Application. Sometimes, a better course of action is to accept the original denial, but re-file the I-130 application with additional evidence. A denial does not mean you can’t re-apply for the same family member. Depending on your circumstances, reapplying may take less time that appealing the decision.

Gail Seeram
1-877-GAIL-LAW / 407-292-7730.

Trump Travel Ban Partially Enforced & Reviewed by U.S. Supreme Court

On June 26, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to hear the case relating to Trump Travel Ban executive order when it reconvenes in October 2017. In the meantime, the Court will allow the administration to implement parts of Trump’s second executive order, which bans the entry of nationals of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from the United States and suspends the admission of all refugees for 120 days. In a narrow decision, the Court ruled that the government can only enforce the Trump travel ban against foreign nationals “who lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” This outcome is both disappointing and confusing.

There is no doubt this standard will create confusion and that, despite the narrowness of the Court’s decision, the administration will attempt to go further than permitted by the Court in deciding who can enter the U.S. In granting a partial stay, the Supreme Court has determined that individuals from the six countries (all of which have Muslim populations of more than 90 percent) and all refugees can be blocked from entering the United States if they lack the requisite relationship to a person or organization

The Trump travel ban (sometimes known as a Muslim Ban) refers to an Executive Order signed by President Donald Trump on March 6, 2017. This Executive Order is the second of its kind and among other provisions, suspends the entry of foreign nationals from Iran, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Syria for a period of 90 days; freezes the refugee admissions program for a period of 120 days; and slashes the refugee numbers by one half. The litigation around Muslim Ban 2.0 was immediate and resulted in two federal court decisions blocking the most controversial portions of the travel ban.

Immigration Courts 500,000 Cases Pending
In the meantime – The New Yorker reports that U.S. immigration courts are facing a backlog of over half a million cases—and each one, on average, takes almost two years to close. Roughly three hundred judges nationwide are responsible for the entire immigration caseload, and hiring is slow—filling a vacancy typically takes about two years, according to the Government Accountability Office. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that he would try to streamline the hiring process, but in the meantime, judges are being shifted around the country due to the backlog.

Gail Seeram
1-877-GAIL-LAW / 407-292-7730.

How to check processing time for an immigration filing?

Since the Trump administration, we have seen longer backlogs and numerous errors in processing immigration petitions filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Every year USCIS adjudicates approximately 6 million petitions and applications for immigration benefits, such as naturalization applications, adjustment-of-status applications, change-of-status applications, and employment authorization petitions and applications.

There are a few ways to check on processing time of a pending immigration filing:

1 – Check processing time at a field office or service center –

2 – Check visa availability for a Form I-130 (family-based) or I-140 (employment-based) filed and pending –

3 – Check the status of a petition filed with USCIS based on receipt number –

Gail Seeram
1-877-GAIL-LAW / 407-292-7730.

Trump says Dreamers Stay & DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) will remain in effect

The Homeland Security Department announced on June 15, 2017 that it would keep in place the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, allowing undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to remain in the country. In effect, Trump says Dreamers stay and has broken his key campaign promise to terminate DACA and immediately deport all illegal immigrants under the DACA program. DACA recipients will continue to be eligible as outlined in the June 15, 2012, memorandum executed by President Obama.

In June 2012, President Obama announced that certain young people who were brought to the United States as young children, who do not present a risk to national security or public safety, and meet several key criteria will be considered for the relief of deferred action for two years and will be eligible for work authorization. Under this directive, termed DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) individuals who demonstrate that they meet the following criteria will be eligible for deferred action, on a case-by-case basis AND can apply for work authorization in the U.S. if they meet the following criteria:

Were under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012;
Arrived in the United States before turning 16;
Continuously resided in the United States from June 15, 2007, to the present;
Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, as well as at the time of requesting deferred action from USCIS;
Entered without inspection before June 15, 2012, or any lawful immigration status expired on or before June 15, 2012;
On the date of the request, are in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED)
It is important to understand that deferred action is not a legal immigration status. Deferred action is a discretionary decision by DHS (Department of Homeland Security) not to pursue enforcement against a person for a specific period. A grant of deferred action does not alter an individual’s existing immigration status or provide a path to citizenship. Thus, deferred action cannot be used to establish eligibility for an immigration status that requires maintenance of lawful status. Deferred action, however, may allow a person to qualify for certain state benefits, such as driver license, though state requirements vary.

While deferred action does not cure any prior or subsequent period of unlawful presence, time in deferred action status is considered a period of stay authorized by the Secretary of DHS. An individual does not accrue unlawful presence while in deferred action status or while a DACA request is pending if the individual filed a request before reaching age 18. DHS can renew or terminate a grant of deferred action at any time.

Gail Seeram
1-877-GAIL-LAW / 407-292-7730.

Express Deportation Under Trump

According to the Miami Herald, federal prosecutors in criminal cases are asking district judges to issue what are known as “judicial orders of removal,” which ensure that a convicted foreign national will be deported on completion of the sentence instead of being sent to an immigrant detention center to await proceedings in immigration court and then a deportation order from an immigration judge. The new “express” deportation under Trump, implements the Attorney General’s April 11, 2017, memorandum expressing a “renewed commitment to criminal immigration enforcement,” is purported to shorten the wait time for deportation, bypass backlogs in immigration court, and save the federal government money in housing and food in immigrant detention centers.

The usual legal process for foreign nationals convicted of a crime in federal court was a transfer to immigration authorities upon completion of their prison terms for initiation of deportation proceedings in immigration court. Trump administration officials hope the judicial orders of removal lead to an assembly line of deportations straight from the federal penitentiary and back to the countries from where the foreigners came — a sort of “express deportation” under Trump that skips the legal process in immigration court. Several have already been issued in Miami federal court since Trump took office in January in cases involving sentencing of foreign nationals in felony cases.

Gail Seeram
1-877-GAIL-LAW / 407-292-7730.

Urge Congress to Extend Temporary Protected Status for Haitian Nationals

The Trump administration is considering ending Temporary Protected Status for Haitian nationals, rather than extending the program. Immigration Lawyer Gail S. Seeram has expressed grave concerns regarding this prospect. Not only would the elimination of TPS or Temporary Protected Status for Haiti nationals create immense hardships for close to 47,000 Haitian individuals who have lived in the United States under the program’s protection for more than seven years, it would also adversely impact the U.S. economy and workforce. Show Congress that AILA stands with Haitians by tweeting out your support and by asking members of Congress to urge DHS Secretary Kelly to re-designate TPS for Haiti.

Haiti continues to struggle and Haitian in the U.S. meet the criteria to continue receiving TPA protection. The Haitian government is unable to meet the basic needs of its people, resolve longstanding human rights problems, or address continuing humanitarian crises, even as a new crisis emerged. In October 2016, Hurricane Matthew, a devastating storm, hit Haiti’s southwest. President Privert estimated the losses surpassed the entire national budget and warned of an impending serious food crisis, driven by the loss of crops from the storm. How can the U.S. return Haitians in the U.S. to such devastating conditions?

Gail Seeram
1-877-GAIL-LAW / 407-292-7730.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security New Social Media Screening for Immigration Benefit

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement pilot program for Social Media Screening for Immigration Benefit, which began last August, uses social media screening in the visa issuance process and beyond. While the inspector general report was redacted, it revealed that the agency is using a “web search tool that specializes in social media data exploitation by analyzing social media data and funneling it into actionable information,” to “help identify potential derogatory information not found in government databases.”

The report redacts the duration of Social Media Screening for Immigration Benefit, but it is clear the test program involved more than a one-time check of public-facing social media posts.

The Citizenship and Immigration Service’s social media screening for Immigration Benefit was launched in April 2016. Under that pilot, USCIS screeners requested social media information from visa applicants, then checked the information against a tool developed by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency. USCIS concluded that the tool afforded a low “match confidence,” and that manual screening delivered better results. The IG report redacts data on the number of accounts USCIS was able to confirm using the DARPA tool, and the number it was not able to confirm.

Our recommendation is for anyone seeking an immigration benefit in the U.S. (whether non-immigrant or immigrant) to disable to close all social media accounts. Social Media Screening for Immigration Benefit has been widely used to assess an applicant’s eligibility for an immigration benefit and whether fraud has been committed. In most cases, Social Media Screening for Immigration Benefit has resulted in denial of the benefit sought.

Gail Seeram
1-877-GAIL-LAW / 407-292-7730.

Immigration Cases Administratively closed being placed back on Court Docket

Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) has confirmed it is now re-calendaring or placing back on court docket immigration cases that were previously administratively closed in an exercise of prosecutorial discretion (PD), including cases where there is an arrest or conviction subsequent to the administrative closure. ICE also said that if there was an arrest or conviction prior to administrative closure, that should not trigger a motion to recalendar, nor are they seeking to recalendar all of the cases that were administratively closed for prosecutorial discretion. However, in some jurisdictions, local ICE offices are seeking to recalendar prosecutorial discretion cases where there was no intervening arrest or conviction.

When is Prosecutorial Discretion Used in Immigration Enforcement?

Prosecutorial discretion may be exercised at any stage of an immigration case. Specifically, prosecutorial discretion may be exercised when deciding whether to: issue a detainer; initiate removal proceedings; focus enforcement resources on particular violations or conduct; stop, question, or arrest a particular person; detain or release someone on bond, supervision, or personal recognizance; settle or dismiss a removal case; stay a final order of removal; pursue an appeal; and/or execute a removal order. Examples of the favorable exercise of prosecutorial discretion in the immigration context include a grant of deferred action; a decision to terminate or administratively close removal proceedings; a stay of removal; or a decision not to issue a charging document in the first place.

Who Exercises Prosecutorial Discretion?

ICE, USCIS, and CBP officers have the authority to exercise prosecutorial discretion. Because prosecutorial discretion is a process that determines whether the government is going to pursue enforcement in a case, the initial decisions are made by those immigration officers assigned to the case. Once the initial decision is made to issue a Notice to Appear (a document that formally initiates removal proceedings by charging an individual with immigration violations), further decisions about continuing the government’s case will be made at higher levels within ICE or DHS. Ultimately, the Secretary of Homeland Security, as the official within the executive branch specifically charged with enforcing the Immigration and Nationality Act, is in a position to exercise prosecutorial discretion over every case.

Gail Seeram
1-877-GAIL-LAW / 407-292-7730.

739,478 Overstay in the U.S. in 2016

U.S. Custom and Border Protection provides data on departures and overstays, by country, for foreign visitors to the United States who entered as nonimmigrant visitors and were expected to depart in fiscal year 2016. The report specifies that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) processed 50,437,278 in-scope nonimmigrant admissions at U.S. air and sea ports of entry who were expected to depart in fiscal year 2016—of which 739,478 overstayed their admission, resulting in a total overstay in the U.S. of a rate of 1.47 percent.

Out of the total population, of the more than 21.6 million Visa Waiver Program (VWP) visitors expected to depart the United States in fiscal year 2016, 147,282 overstay in the U.S., with 128,806 suspected in-country overstays (a .60 percent suspected in-country overstay rate for VWP travelers). Of the more than 13.8 million non-VWP visitors—excluding Canada and Mexico—expected to depart the United States in fiscal year 2016, 287,107 overstay in the U.S., with 263,470 suspected in-country overstays. This resulted in a 1.90 percent suspected in country overstay rate.

Of the 1,457,556 students and exchange visitors scheduled to complete their program in the United States in fiscal year 2016, 79,818 overstay in the U.S. beyond their authorized window for departure, resulting in a 5.48 percent overstay rate. Of the 79,818, 40,949 are suspected in-country overstays (2.81 percent).

DHS conducts the overstay identification process by examining arrival, departure and immigration status information, which is consolidated to generate a complete picture of an individual’s travel to the United States. Due to continuing departures and adjustments in status, by January 10, 2017, the number of suspected in-country overstays for fiscal year 2016 decreased to 544,676, resulting in a suspected in-country overstay rate of 1.07 percent.

DHS anticipates that these overstay in the U.S. numbers will shift over time as additional information is reported. Specifically, the overall suspected in-country overstay rate will continue to decline as the number of individuals who have departed or transitioned to another immigration status after their initial period of authorized admission ended grows.

Gail Seeram
1-877-GAIL-LAW / 407-292-7730.

Special Considerations for Newlywed Couples who are applying for Permanent Residence “Green Cards”

This article is designed to help in guiding couples through the permanent residence “green card” process for their spouses, parents, biological children, step-children, adopted children, step-children, and siblings. By far most of our clients are couples who are going through the immigration process. In this article I will focus on couples who are newlyweds.

Our firm loves working with newlywed couples because we have the opportunity to save that couple time and money by getting their immigration process done the right way the first time. With all permanent residence “green card” petitions that are based on a marriage Immigration is going to focus on two main things. Immigration is going to focus on couple’s finances and joint life. In addition, Immigration is going to focus on the couple’s children and family ties. Most newlywed couples that we meet have neither an established history of joint finances or children. Consequently because most newlyweds do not have an established joint financial history and they have no children newlyweds have a greater burden to prove to Immigration that they have a genuine relationship.

In addition to having a greater burden of proof most newlyweds do not have experience with the procedural process of filing and getting an immigration case approved. In my practice we have re-filed immigration cases for couples whose cases were initially denied because they inadvertently failed to submit a document to Immigration before a deadline. The procedural requirements are simple but they are lengthy. As a result there are many occasions where a case can be denied or substantially delayed because of a procedural mistake. Procedural mistakes can result in denials of immigration petitions. In addition, once a case is denied the couple has lost all their filing fees and they will now have the laborious and expensive job of re-filing their case with Immigration.

The best ways to get your spouse’s permanent residence “green card” case approved begins before the couple says their “I dos.” Every day we show our clients the best ways to get their green card cases approved the first time while reducing their processing times and helping them to avoid the immigration red flags that result in denials and deportations. In this month’s article I have listed the top two things that you can start doing today to get your case on the road to an approval so that you and your spouse can enjoy your “happily ever after.”

Tip Number One: Document Your Courtship

When most applicants apply for permanent residence they provide Immigration with documentation that they have acquired after they are married. This action appears to be the most logical thing to do since the application for permanent residence is based on marriage to the United States Citizen. Consequently, most applicants are not aware that Immigration is not only interested in the couple as a married couple but also Immigration is interested in the couple’s life before marriage. Therefore couples should keep careful records of their relationship, their courtship, and engagement prior to their marriage.

At our first meeting with a couple we do our best to get to know more about the couple’s relationship so that we can provide customized advice for their specific situation. Not every couple’s relationship is the same.

Tip Number Two: Assemble Your Personal Documents.

Normally a couple’s first discussion about the foreign spouse’s immigration status usually begins after the couple has already gotten married. Rather the best time to talk about the foreign spouse’s immigration status is when the couple has decided that they wish to build a life together. It is important know how and when the foreign national entered the United States. The couple should also start assembling or obtaining their birth certificate, divorce decree(s), passports, I-94 card, and visa stamps and all other personal documents.

Readers of Kotch Magazine who are engaged or married to a foreign national spouse may contact the Byars Firm for a complimentary immigration consultation. Couples may also access the Byars Firm’s immigration Facebook group that was designed to give free tips and general information about the permanent residence “Green Card” process at

Safiya Byars

Founder and Senior Partner of Byars Firm
3720 Chamblee Dunwoody Road, Ste. D2,
Chamblee, GA 30341

Disclaimer:This article is provided as a public service and is not intended to establish an attorney-client relationship. Any reliance on the information contained herein is taken at your own risk. The information provided in this article should never replace informed counsel when specific immigration-related guidance is needed.


Family immigration law is an area of law that provides immigration benefits to family members. As I am writing this article I am currently preparing to serve as the chair for the 2015 Family Immigration Continuing Legal Education Class for immigration attorneys in the state of Georgia. In preparing for that program I have decided to list a number of issues that myself and my colleagues thought would be beneficial to you if you are getting ready to apply for your immigration benefits.

In the area of immigration most people are lulled into the comfort of relying on the internet, Immigration’s website, or their family and friends. Some individuals are lucky in that they rely on these sources and receive an approval on their case. This is called gambling. As an immigrant myself I tell my clients do not take a gamble on your case. Your immigration case has a direct impact on your life. You owe it to yourself and your family to ensure that your case is done correctly the first time. If you have chosen to take a gamble on your case then this may mean that your case was not that important to you or you already know that you do not qualify for the immigration benefit and you have decided to intentionally provide incorrect/incomplete information in the hopes that Immigration will overlook it and approve your case. A summary of the issues raised by myself and other attorneys are as follows:

1. Tell the truth and tell it to your attorney first.
It is important to understand that everyone’s case is unique. Whenever you are applying to Immigration there are two main concerns that you should have. The first concern should be the law. Does the law actually provide an immigration benefit that can benefit me. The second concern is the facts of your case. The facts of your case is what makes your case unique. Everyone’s situation is always a little bit different from another case. Facts that are extremely important usually are concerned with unauthorized employment, criminal arrests, convictions, and the details of your family relationship. However, the facts about your relationship with your spouse is also extremely important if you are applying for immigration benefits based on your relationship with your spouse. As such, the best time to tell the entire truth about your case is to your attorney. In addition, the best time to tell your attorney is before he or she files your case with Immigration. Your attorney will then be able to advise you on the best course of action. In some cases Immigration is able to forgive certain violations. However you must disclose to Immigration in order to be forgiven. The one caveat is please disclose all the good and the bad information to your attorney first.

2. The Immigration Officer is your friend. Do your best to make the Immigration Officer’s job as easy as possible.

At the Immigration appointment Immigration Officers have limited time in which they must complete an interview. They also have a schedule of interviews that they must complete for the day. As such, Immigration Officers prefer to review cases that are organized. They also prefer when the applicants are prepared for their interview. Consequently, it is important to keep in mind that the Immigration Officers have limited time and therefore it would be beneficial to be thorough in your preparation. I have seen many cases that are delayed and then denied because the applicants were simply not prepared and/or they did not bring the appropriate documents to their interview. Immigration Officers take your case and their jobs very seriously and therefore you should take your case seriously as well. If you are not adequately prepared the Immigration Officer will assume that you are lying or committing fraud on your case. Once Immigration makes a finding of fraud against you your case will become substantially more difficult to be approved. As such the bottom line is to ensure that you are organized so that you will make the Immigration Officer’s job as easy as possible.

3. Maintain credibility.

The best way to maintain your credibility with Immigration is to answer all questions in full. Before you answer any questions on your applications please consult an attorney. Most applicants do not realize that the immigration forms have language that states that when you sign your application you are signing under penalty of perjury. This means that if you answer a question with incorrect or incomplete information then you may have just committed perjury. Later at the interview if it comes to light that you provided incorrect or incomplete information the officer may consider this is to be fraud/misrepresentation. The best way to maintain your credibility is to remain consistent in your answers and documents when you initially file your case and then later on at your interview

Safiya Byars

Founder and Senior Partner of Byars Firm
3720 Chamblee Dunwoody Road, Ste. D2,
Chamblee, GA 30341

Disclaimer: This article is a broad overview. This article is not legal advice and should not be taken as legal advice. This article is provided as a public service and is not intended to establish an attorney-client relationship. Any reliance on the information contained herein is taken at your own risk. The information provided in this article should never replace informed counsel when specific immigration-related guidance is needed.

“Green Card” Permanent Residence (FAQs)

These common questions that we receive from prospective clients who are getting ready to pursue their permanent residence “green card’ through their spouse, may be insightful.

1. Question: I am engaged and my fiancé and I want to know more about the immigration process to obtain my permanent residence.

Answer: The best time to learn about the “green card” process for a couple is when you are engaged. The immigration process will not actually begin until you are married. However, for newlyweds Immigration always evaluates the couple’s relationship prior to their marriage as well as after they have tied the knot. The immigration process will begin with the filing of your immigration petitions. The second step is the pending phase where you can continue to build your case in anticipation of your interview. The third step is the “green card” interview. Based on the unique facts of my clients’ cases I usually discuss the processing times and our case strategy at our consultation.

2. Question: My husband and I are newlyweds and we are trying to figure out how to start the immigration process.
Answer: The best way to start the immigration process is to start gathering all of your personal items such as your birth certificates, passports, visa, I-94 card, marriage certificate and divorce decree(s) if any. The next step is to schedule a consultation to gain detailed information on the immigration process.

3.Question: I entered the United States on someone else’s visa and now I am getting married. My wife to be and I want to apply for permanent residence in the United States. Can I apply for permanent residence?

Answer: Generally individuals who have legally entered the United States and are now married to US citizen may apply for permanent residence despite the fact that they have overstayed their visa or they have worked without immigration’s permission. However, the key point is that the applicant is required to prove legal entry. If you entered on someone else’s documents then this is not legal entry. If there is no legal entry the applicant will have to explore some other options in order to gain permanent residence through his/her spouse.

4. Question: Presently my driver’s license is expired and I need to work. Will I be able to obtain my work permit and get a new license while my green card case is pending?

Answer: Generally the answer is yes. If you are eligible to apply for permanent residence “green card” in the United States, Immigration will provide you with a work permit while your case is pending. Once you have received your work permit you may present that document to your local DMV office to obtain a new license. If you do not have a social security card you may also present your work permit to your local social security office to obtain a social security number.

5. Question: I have heard from many individuals that the immigration process is very long. If I hire an attorney will my processing time be reduced?

Answer: Whenever you submit your petition to Immigration there is a suggested processing time based on Immigration’s current workload. The processing time can be drastically extended if you did not submit a complete application or if your documents have not established that you are eligible for your benefits. As a result of that, Immigration may request additional documents or send a notice that they intend to deny your case. All of these actions will delay your case and add to your processing time. For our clients we work to ensure that they receive the shortest processing times by preparing their case to avoid the unnecessary delays due to Immigration’s request for evidence and Immigration errors.

6. Question: My husband and I have already attended my green card interview. However, we just received another notice for a second interview. What is going on? Why does Immigration want to interview us again?

Answer: The second interview is what is normally known as the “fraud interview.” This mean that Immigration does not believe that there is sufficient evidence or testimony to prove that you and your husband have a genuine marriage. At this point, you will need to rebuild your case to now convince the Immigration Officer that you are in fact a real couple. This is a very high burden. You should consult or hire an attorney immediately. We handle “fraud interviews’ on a consistent basis and we have been successful.

7. Question: My wife and I applied for my permanent residence and my case was denied. Should we file an appeal or should we just reapply?

Answer: The decision on whether or not to file an appeal or re-file your case is based on the reason for the denial of the first petition. If Immigration denied your case over a minor procedural issue and they made an error I would suggest an appeal. If Immigration denied your case because you did not prove that you were eligible for your benefits it may be beneficial to re-file your case or file an appeal. The best way to decide on this matter is to consult an attorney.

8. Question: If my permanent residence case was denied will I be deported?

Answer: The answer is yes and no. Once your immigration case is denied Immigration can forward your file to the Immigration Court for removal proceedings. In that case you will be required to go to court and prove that you have legal status or that you are reapplying for legal status. In some cases your immigration file is not transferred to the Immigration court and that allows you time to decide if you wish to file an appeal or re-file your case with immigration. Ultimately if you are placed in removal proceedings and you have no legal status and you have no way to acquire any legal status the Immigration court will order removal. If you have a denied case your best option is to consult with or hire an attorney to help you to file an appeal, re-file your case, or defend you in Immigration Court.

Bonus: If you are engaged or married and you wish to learn more about the “green card” process contact an immigration attorney who will answer your questions and provide you with some helpful tips on acquiring your new immigration status.

Safiya Byars

Founder and Senior Partner of Byars Firm
3720 Chamblee Dunwoody Road, Ste. D2,
Chamblee, GA 30341

Disclaimer: This article is a broad overview of common immigration questions. This article is provided as a public service and is not intended to establish an attorney-client relationship. Any reliance on the information contained herein is taken at your own risk. The information provided in this article should never replace informed counsel when specific immigration-related guidance is needed.

Prove Domestic Abuse And get or keep your green card

In order to become a Citizen of the United States (USC), one must first have been a lawful permanent resident (LPR) – or have a green card – for a specified number of years; so the critical question for the vast majority of persons is: “How do I get a green card?”

Generally speaking, a petition is usually filed on behalf of an alien by some one else, such as an employer, or a family member. There are many exceptions to this general rule however, and sometimes it is familiarizing ourselves with the exceptions, rather than the rule, that may get us results! One such exception falls within the realm of domestic abuse.

There is legislation allowing a person to self-petition and become a lawful permanent resident upon proving that he or she is a person of good moral character, is married to a USC or LPR, the marriage was entered into in good faith and, during the marriage, the alien “…has been battered or has been the subject of extreme cruelty perpetrated by the alien’s spouse…”. Similar provisions also give residence to an abused child or abused parent of a USC or LPR.

Given that basic premise, potential clients have asked me lots of questions:

Q: I have never called the police on him, because I was afraid of what he would do, so how am I going to be able to prove that he is abusive?

A: Of course, if there are police reports, psychological evaluations and photographs showing wounds, it would be easier to prove your case, but those things are not always available or necessary, especially where there are credible sworn statements by persons having specific knowledge of what you have been going through.

Q: My husband has never hit me, but I am so afraid of him because of his threats. He pointed a gun at me once, and then laughed and told me it was not loaded.

A: If you feel afraid of your husband, and do not share in his idea of a “joke” like that, please know that abuse does not have to be physical. It can be mental or psychological.

Q: I divorced my husband a year and a half ago. Is it too late to file this self petition?

A: Even in certain situations where the parties are already divorced, or where you have learned that the marriage was bigamous, so he technically was not even legally your husband, the basic provisions may still apply.

Q: I already got my green card, and I did not tell the Immigration Authorities (CIS) about my wife’s abuse because I did not want to get her in trouble. She has four children. But now I have to file the second petition to get my ten year card, and she has told me she is not going to do anything more to help me.

A: Failure to timely file to remove the conditions on your residence can lead to you being placed in deportation proceedings, so just not filing is not an option. Specific provisions are in place in situations like this too, where it is time to file but the abusive, controlling, dominating spouse refuses to cooperate with you in the process.

* * * * * * * * *

The purpose in providing this information to the public is to encourage you, or a family member or friend in this situation, to discuss your case with a competent immigration attorney, to determine if you could qualify under the law without waiting for your spouse to submit that petition for you.

Attorney Paula S. D’Aguilar

Member of the New York Bar

954-583-3805 or

How to help children navigate the U.S. immigration laws

Understanding the law can be helpful for your biological, step, adopted and married children

A distraught client explains: “My son went for an interview at the American Embassy two days ago, and he was denied. What do I do now?” You may have heard some horror stories about a husband petitioning for his wife and children overseas, (or vise versa) and the children having to be left behind when the mother’s immigrant visa is approved but not the children; or you may have heard of situations where some of the children got through and others did not.
There might be just one child left behind who does not qualify for the immigrant visa to come to the U.S., and that can be devastating to a whole family structure. We will explore in this article some of the issues which must be considered before a child finally joins his or her parents in the US.
The first phase is the petition to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) [no longer INS], and the issue here is “Will the petition be approved?” Several factors are relevant in this phase, such as: the age of the child, the immigration status of the parent, the marital status of the child, and the actual relationship of the parties.
The second phase is called the immigrant visa processing, when the child is overseas, or adjustment of status, when the child is already in the U.S. These factors come into play again in the second phase of the process, and additional factors, such as the child’s criminal record, also become relevant before final approval for residence. (In many cases, there is a long waiting game between the two phases, which we will address in a future article.)

My daughter is already over 21. Can I petition for her?

Generally speaking, the term “child,” as defined by the Immigration and Nationality Act, refers to an individual under the age of 21. Thereafter, she is classified as the “son” or “daughter” of the American Citizen (USC) or lawful permanent resident (LPR). No matter what the age of the child, your petition may be approved. The age of the child becomes relevant, however, in determining whether the child is then treated as an “immediate relative” and can immediately move to the second phase, or whether he or she falls under a preference category, and must be subject to a waiting period, pursuant to a quota set by Congress, for an immigrant visa number to become available. After the child turns 21, she is said to “age out,” and moves to a different category. The Child Status Protection Act provides a formula by which some qualifying children
may still be treated as a “child” and subject to the immediate relative processing, despite
having technically aged out by turning 21.

One of the twins is married. Can I petition for him as well?

The answer is yes, if you are a USC. Note, however, that they will fall under different preference
categories. The married child, son or daughter falls under what is known as the 3rd preference
category, and is subject to a much longer waiting period, generally. If you are an LPR, however,
a petition for a married child cannot be approved under the U.S. immigration laws. Green card
holders may petition for their unmarried children only – whether never previously married, or
previously married but now divorced.

My daughter will be getting married in four months. Is it ok to submit a petition for her now,
or should I wait until after the wedding?

Again, the answer would be in the affirmative if you are a USC. However, if you are an LPR, who
will not be gaining U.S. citizenship through naturalization before the date of her marriage, it
would be unwise to file the petition. It would be a waste of your money. If that beneficiarychild,
(or son or daughter – now that you understand the distinction) gets married even one day
before you become a USC, the petition must be denied, under U.S. immigration laws. Always
wait for your citizenship before submitting a petition for a married child or one who insists on
getting married before the visa processing is complete.

The petition I filed for my daughter was approved four years ago, and her interview at the
Embassy is coming up in five weeks. Can she marry her live-in boyfriend now so that he can
be interviewed at the same time and come up to the US with her and their two children?

Yes, if you are a USC. If an LPR petitions for an unmarried son or daughter, however, please
warn that child never to get married until after his or her residence is granted, or unless the
petitioner first becomes a naturalized American citizen. That rule is firm, up to the date that the
individual enters the U.S. on his or her immigrant visa. In other words, entry into the U.S. marks
the date that the lawful permanent resident status is granted, so disclosure of the child’s
marriage prior to the interview would lead to a denial.
Similarly, marriage after the immigrant visa is obtained, but prior to the subsequent entry into
the U.S., can lead to an ultimate denial. If there is indeed such a marriage within that time
frame, but it was not disclosed upon entry, proceedings to rescind the residence may be
commenced whenever the authorities become aware of the marriage. “How would they ever
know?” is a tempting question, but remember, if you got married, you may want to petition for
that spouse to come and live with you in the U.S. at some point, and the marriage certificate
will disclose the relevant date. Always be truthful in your response to any questions posed by
the examiner. The advice would, therefore, be to always seek legal counsel from a competent Immigration Attorney before you make any such moves. Your future depends on it.

I just got married and I want to file for my wife and her two children. They are not my children. Is that possible?

Yes, whether you are a USC or an LPR, you may petition for residence for your step-children.

My sister just died and I want to adopt my nephew and bring him to the U.S. Can that be done?

Without going into the entire huge topic of adoptions, suffice it to say that a petition, whether by a USC or LPR, can be approved, if the adopted child is under the age of 16 at the time the adoption takes place. However, do not rush into such an adoption without legal advice. You may adopt the child in his home country and find that he is not eligible for U.S. immigration benefits, which would further devastate the child’s situation, and yours. Complications include proving that you have lived with the child for two years; and time constraints involve having to wait until two years after the adoption is finalized, before initiating the petition process with the immigration authorities. Special rules apply where the petitioner is a USC and the child is classifiable as an “orphan.” Let’s leave that subject for another article.
The answers given above relate to filings on behalf of a child of a mother, or of a father, where the father was married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth, or prior to the child’s 18th birthday. Separate rules apply when the father marries the mother only after the child turned 18, or was never married to the mother. The next article in this series will deal with the special subject of “fathers.”

Attorney Paula S. D’Aguilar, member of the New York bar, has been practicing Immigration Law for more than thirty years. She maintains offices in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and may be reached at 954-583-3805 or via to schedule a private, confidential appointment. Phone consultations may also be arranged.

From Illegal Immigrant to Permanent Resident

In the United States, illegal immigration refers to the act of foreign nationals violating American immigration policies and laws through the entering or remaining in the country without receiving proper authorization from the federal government. You may be termed an “illegal immigrant” in one of the following ways:

Illegally Entering the United States: Referred to as “Border Crossing Card Violator” these individuals enter the United States via illegal entry. A common method of border crossing is to hire professional organizations who smuggle illegal immigrants across the United States’ borders. The Mexican/American border is the most common access point for illegal immigration. This method of illegal entry accounts for roughly 6.5 million illegal immigrant statuses in the United States.

Overstaying your Visa:

The individual entered the United States in a legal fashion (obtained a visa) but stayed beyond the allotted time period in the nation or violated the terms of legal entry. Roughly 5 million migrants entered America with a legal visa. Tourists and students are the most common groups to secure visas before travelling to the United States. Their status of a legal migrant changes to “visa overstay” once the individual remains in the United States after their authorized time of admission has expired. The time allotted by a visa will vary based on the visa class the individual secured. The majority of these illegal immigrants enter the country with tourist or business visas.

Border Crossing Card Violations: The Border Crossing Card is a form of identification that enables an individual to cross into the United States for a limited amount of time. These entries accounts for the majority of registered nonimmigrant entry into America.

Laws Surrounding Illegal Entry or Over-Staying:

An immigrant may be classified as illegal for the following three reasons: the individual enters without inspection or authorization, the individual stays beyond an authorized period following legal entry, or the individual violates the terms of legal entry.

The laws related to illegal entry or overstaying are found in Section 1325 in Title 8 of the United States Code. This section, titled “Improper Entry of Alien” will provide a fine or imprisonment (or both) for any immigrant who:

  1. Enters or attempts to enter America at any time or location other than what was    designated by the United States Government immigration official, or
  2. Any individual who eludes inspection or examination implemented by the United States Government and its immigration agents, or
  3. Any individual who attempts to enter the United States by providing a false or misleading representation of oneself or through a willful concealment of fact.  For instance, if you provide a false passport, driver’s license or pretend to be anyone else, you will be charged with attempting to enter the United States in an illegal fashion.

The maximum prison sentence for an individual caught in the act of violating immigration policy is 6 months for the first offense and additional 2 years for any subsequent offense.

How does the United States Enforce Illegal Immigration Laws?

The United States government is attempting to crack-down on illegal immigration. If you have over-stayed your visa or illegally crossed the border, chances are the United States government will uncover documentation that leads to your imprisonment or deportation. The following methods are used by the United States government to curb and reveal cases of illegal immigration:

Protection at the Border: The United States Customs and Border Protection agency is responsible for arresting individuals who attempt to illegally enter the United States. The United States Border Patrol is a uniformed law enforcement agency that is responsible for deterring, detecting and subsequently apprehending those individuals who enter the United States in an illegal fashion—without permission from the government and outside the designated points of entry.

Workplace Investigations: The United States government conducts audits on employment records (the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency initiates the audits) to reveal any discrepancies with regards to identification records and the documentation itself. Workplace audits may result in deportation if absolute evidence of illegal immigration is uncovered. Immigration authorities, during workplace investigation, will alert employers of mismatches between an employees’ social security card and the actual identification information of the card holder. In addition to employment records, an immigrant’s visa is perpetually updated and observed by the United States government. Simply put, the government will know, through your employer, as to when your visa expires.

What is the Punishment Associated with Illegal Immigration?

Individuals who are caught illegally immigrating will face detention, imprisonment or deportation. Annually, the United States holds roughly 300,000 illegal immigrants in immigration detention centers. An illegal immigrants’ deportation is determined in administrative or removal proceedings, held by the government in accordance with United States immigration law. A removal proceeding is typically conducted in an immigration court and held by an immigration judge. If the individual is found guilty of illegally immigrating, he/she may be sent back to their home country and barred from re-entry to the United States. Complications in deportation will arise when the parents are deemed illegal immigrants, but their children were born in America.

Laws Surrounding Deportation:

If you do not have a visa, a green card or citizenship in the United States and are currently living in the country, you are subject to deportation. Getting deported is a very serious aspect of immigration law; it is the process of the United States government removing illegal immigrants from the country. Deportation may eliminate your ability to secure a visa in the future. The United States Government may deport you for the following reasons:

If you enter the United States while being deemed “legally inadmissible” by theimmigration laws of the federal government
Entering the country without a legal visa
Failure to renew a conditional permanent residency visa
Aiding an illegal immigrant with entering the country
Conviction of a criminal offense
Endangering national or public security
Participating in afraudulent marriage for the purpose of securing an immigrant visa
Grace Foltz


Archived EditionDisclaimer:This article is provided as a public service and is not intended to establish an attorney-client relationship. Any reliance on the information contained herein is taken at your own risk. The information provided in this article should never replace informed counsel when specific immigration-related guidance is needed.

There are several ways to become a legal resident of the United States. The exact procedure to obtain legalization will depend on your location, your background and your residency status. In most cases, before you can obtain a green card (permanent residence) you must obtain a legal status. If you are residing–because of illegal crossing or an expired visa–in the United States as an illegal immigrant, you must obtain legalization through your family (if permanent residents or American citizens), your place of employment, the United States military, through marriage or from an educational endeavor.

This will enable you to maintain residence in the United States for a certain period of time. It is crucial to understand that all visas have expiration dates—green cards and citizenship are permanent, not visas. Before your expiration date, you must secure a green card through marriage, the military or a family member, employment or business.

To acquire legalization you must engage in or be categorized as one of the following: a family-based immigrant, a member of the United States Armed Forces, a worker or student with exceptional skills, an employment-based worker, or an asylum seeker/refugee. The visas associated with these categories are all temporary; however, they will enable you to live in the country legally and apply for permanent residency in the future.

Legalization from Family Members:

A number of people become legalized by way of their family members. The following individuals may be eligible to legally live in the United States:

  • Any immediate relatives of American citizens, including spouses, unmarried children under the age of 21, and parents of American citizen petitioners 21 years or older.
  • Family members of green card holders, including spouses and unmarried children of the sponsoring individual
  • A family member of an American citizen who fits into a preference category, including unmarried children over the age of 21, brothers and sisters of an American citizen petitioner over 21 and married children of any age.
  • Members of special categories, including battered children or spouses, individuals born to foreign diplomats in the United States, a widower of a United States’ citizen or a K non-immigrant.

Process of Legalization through Family:

To promote family unity, United States immigration law enables citizens to petition for qualified relatives to live permanently in America. As stated above, eligible relatives include, spouses, unmarried children under the age of 21 and parents of the U.S. citizen if over 21. These individuals possess special immigration priority; they do not have to wait in line for a visa to immigrate because the government offers a chance to immediate family members of citizens or green card holders to reunite the family.

Being an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen allows you to apply for residency through the filing of Form I-485 (Application to Adjust Status or Register Permanent Residence). While filling this form out your American citizen petitioner must file Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative). When filing Form I-130, your petitioner must provide proof of status to demonstrate permanent residency and must submit evidence to qualify your relationship. Permitted evidence includes: a birth certificate, divorce decree or marriage certificate.

When your relative or spouse is petitioning, the government will observe the following preference categories:

  •   First Preference:All unmarried, adult sons and daughters of American citizens (adult encompasses all individuals over the age of 21)
  •   Second Preference (2A):Spouses of green card holders and unmarried children under the age of 21 of permanent residents
  •   Second Preference (2B):Unmarried adult sons and daughters of green card holders
  •   Third Preference:Married sons and daughters of a United States citizen
  •   Fourth Preferences: Sisters and brothers of adult American citizens.

A visa will become available to the above preference categories depending on their priority   dates (the date the I-130 form was filed).

If you are living outside of the United States and are an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, you can apply for permanent residency by engaging in consular processing. This procedure connects the USCIS with your Department of State to issue a permanent visa assuming the approval of Form I-130.

Legalization through Marriage:

A fiancé visa is one of the most common ways to obtain citizenship. If you are planning on marrying a U.S. citizen, your partner will file the petition to award you with permanent residence. When filing the petition, your partner must satisfy the following requirements:

  • The petitioner must be a citizen of the United States
  • The petitioner must show that they intend on marrying you within 90 days of your entry into the United states
  • You and your fiancé are both available to marry and previous marriageshave been legally terminated by death, annulment or divorce
  • You met each other in person at least once within 2 years of filing the petition.

Legalization through Employment:

Every year, thousands of people are legalized through an employment opportunity. The approval for a work visa will require certification from the United States Department of Labor. The United States Government, before issuing the visa, will investigate the need for the specific job. The Government must see a lack of U.S. workers who are able, qualified, willing or available to satisfy the job requirements in that particular area. The Government will ensure that no American workers are displaced through the issuance of the visa.

A visa will also be given for employment if you are considered a “highly skilled worker” or in possession of extraordinary abilities in a specific field. These workers are typically sought-after by the United States government. For instance, in 2002, a number of computer technicians and programmers were awarded a work visa.

Process for Acquiring a Green Card through Employment:

The majority of employment categories will require your employer to obtain a labor certification then subsequently file Form I-140, (The Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker) for you.

Green cards may also be offered to entrepreneurs/investors who are seeking to make a substantial investment in an entity or enterprise that creates new jobs.

Grace Foltz


If you are interested in becoming a full-time student in the United States, you will need to acquire either an M-1 Student Visa or an F-1 Student Visa. To acquire temporary legalization with a student visa you must meet the following criteria:

  • You must be enrolled in an educational program, a vocational program or a language-training program.
  • Your academic institution must be approved by the USCIS.
  • You must be enrolled as a student (full-time) at the academic institution.
  • You must be proficient in the English language or be enrolled in classes leading to fluency
  • You must have enough money to support yourself during the course of study
  • You must maintain a home abroad to show that you have no intention of staying.

The F-1 Student Visa enables you to enter America as a full-time student at an accredited university, college, academic high school, elementary school or language training program. You must be enrolled in a course of study that culminates in a degree or certificate. Your school must also be authorized by the United States Federal Government to accept international students.

The M-1 Student Visa is for vocational students or students of non-academic programs (other than language courses).

Citizenship and the Military:

Members and certain veterans of the United States armed forces may be eligible for citizenship through their military service. Qualifying military service refers to participation in the United States Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and certain branches of the National Guard.

Those who honorably serve in the United States Armed Services (at any time), will be deemed eligible to apply for citizenship; however, the applicant must satisfy the following requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Be able to read, write and speak basic English
  • Maintain permanent residency at the time of the application
  • Possess strong moral character
  • Have a knowledge of U.S history and government
  • Have resided in the United States, continuously, for at least five years and have been physically present in the country for at least 30 months out of the 5 years preceding the application.
  • Spouses and children of military members are also deemed eligible to apply for citizenship assuming they pass the following criteria:
  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Establish that his or her spouse or parent is deployed abroad as an active service member
  • Be present in the United States pursuant to admission for permanent residence or at the time of naturalization
  • Be able to read, write and speak English
  • Have a basic knowledge of United States’ government and history.

Legalization through Asylee or Refugee Status:

If you were admitted to the United States as a qualifying member of an asylee or as a refugee, you may apply for permanent residence 1 year after your entry into America. If you were granted asylum in America, you may apply for permanent residency 1 year after you secured your status.

To apply for a green card you must file the Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status). If your asylum status is granted, you should file, in addition to Form I-485, a completed Form I-693 (Report of Medical Exam and Vaccination Record), a completed Form I-602 (Application by Refugee for Waiver of Grounds of Excludability), a copy of your I-94 Card, a completed Form G-325A, two passport-style photos and certified copies of court records if you were ever arrested.

Form I-485 is also required if you are applying for a Green Card through Refugee status. In addition to Form I-485, you should enclose with your application two photos, Form G-28, Form G-325A, Form I-693 (only needed if there were medical grounds of inadmissibility at the time you arrived in America).

What Happens After I Acquire Legalization?

  • After you acquire legalization you must obtain permanent residency (a green card) to live in the United States. All visas have expiration dates—if you stay in the United States past your expiration date your status will become illegal. Once you stay in the United States for at least five years as a permanent resident, demonstrate proficiency for English and knowledge for United States’ history and government, you may obtain citizenship. The primary motive for immigrants to acquire citizenship is to vote in public elections and assist their relatives immigrate to America.

Grace Foltz


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