Category Archives: immigration consequences of criminal convictions

The Legal Immigrant PODCAST is Now Up!

The month of January signals new beginnings and fresh starts. In December 2020 – with the new year approaching – I finally took steps to launch The Legal Immigrant podcast.

Through success stories and Q&As, the show will cover U.S. immigration problems that we help our clients solve.

Episodes 1 and 2 are now up. The podcast is available HERE  on the show’s website. Or find it on podcast apps like Apple Podcasts, SpotifyPlayer FM, and Listen Notes or via RSS feed.

At the start of 2020, I had tentative plans to launch a podcast. As a solo immigration lawyer and a productivity coach, I was conflicted on whether to start one or two podcasts. Over time, this project moved to the backburner while COVID-19, civil unrest, school closures, the November Elections, and other changes were at front and center.

Although the U.S. and other parts of the world are still not back to pre-COVID-19 “normal,” we can still attend to the essentials. We have a unique opportunity to build resilience, show grace to others, and learn new ways to maintain human connection.

Besides launching The Legal Immigrant podcast, I started another podcast, The Incrementalist. This productivity show will discuss how to make big changes or finish a big project in small steps, with the Incrementalist approach.

There’s a content strategy to release new episodes over the coming weeks. It will take systems – not goals – to keep the shows going. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, check out the first two episodes of The Legal Immigrant. If you find the podcast helpful, please share it with others. And subscribe so you don’t miss new episodes. 

And if you’d like to check out my other podcast, The Incrementalist, click HERE for the show’s website.

Your downloads, shares and subscriptions will help to grow the shows. In return, I will aim to provide valuable content and build connection with listeners through podcasting.

Thank you for your support and audience.

All the best in 2021,

Dyan Williams

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Consent to Reapply for Admission – I-212 Waiver: Remedy to Overcoming INA 212(a)(9)(A) and (C) Bars

In this video, attorney Dyan Williams explains the remedy to obtaining a visa or lawful admission to the U.S. when you are barred due to a removal order, illegal re-entry, or aggravated felony conviction. The Consent to Reapply for Admission (I-212 Waiver) is needed when you are inadmissible under INA 212(a)(9)(A) and INA 212(a)(9)(C).

Get answers to these frequently asked questions:

1) Do I need a visa with the CTR?

2) Do I qualify for the CTR?

3) What must I prove to get the CTR?

4) How do I file for the CTR?

5) Do I need an attorney to file for the CTR?

For more information, see:

When do you need an I-212 Waiver (and how do you get it)?

What should you do to get your I-212 Waiver?

Approval of Form I-212 + Grant of Immigrant Visa= A True Success Story

I-212 Waiver + Diversity Immigrant Visa = A True Success Story

Approval of Form I-212 + Grant of 212(d)(3) Nonimmigrant Waiver = A True Success Story

Contact Dyan for advice and guidance on the Consent to Reapply for Admission (I-212 Waiver).

This video provides general information and is for educational purposes only. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. U.S. immigration laws, regulations and policies are subject to change. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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Lifting of INA 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I)(Crime-Related/CIMT) Bar + J-1 Visa Approval = A True Success Story

Within 16 days of my client’s visa interview, the U.S. Embassy granted him a J-1 exchange visitor visa after it had denied his prior application under INA 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I)(crime-related bar). In the previous visa refusal, the Embassy found him to be permanently inadmissible because he was charged with two offenses, forgery and larceny, which are normally considered Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude (CIMT).

Based on the Motion to Reconsider and Rescind Inadmissibility Determination that I prepared for the client, the Embassy lifted the lifetime bar and issued the visa without requiring a 212(d)(3) waiver of inadmissibility.

Under INA 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I), any non-U.S. citizen convicted of, or who admits committing acts that constitute the elements of a crime involving moral turpitude (other than a purely political offense), is inadmissible.  For the CIMT bar to apply, an actual conviction is not required when the person explicitly admits to committing all elements of the offense, under oath, including to a U.S. consular officer or customs officer during an interview.

A CIMT involves engaging in morally reprehensible and intrinsically wrong conduct with willful, reckless, or malicious intent. Examples are crimes against a person (aggravated battery, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, statutory rape); crimes against property (shoplifting, theft, fraud, forgery, robbery); sexual and family crimes (e.g. child abuse, aggravated domestic assault); and crimes against the government (e.g. bribery, counterfeiting, willful tax evasion).

The petty offense exception applies only if the person committed just one CIMT ever, the CIMT has a potential sentence of one year or less, and a sentence of six months or less was imposed (if the person was convicted of the offense).

The client contacted me to evaluate his problem and recommend a solution after he had been denied the J-1 visa due to crime-related grounds. During the consultation, I learned that while he had been arrested and charged with two offenses (forgery and larceny) for one single incident, he was not convicted of either.

The police report, however, contained the client’s written Voluntary Statement admitting he had made a photocopy of his metro-train pass and presented the fake ticket to the train conductor to save money when he was low on cash. Meanwhile, he gave his real train pass to his travel companion to use.

In the legal memorandum supporting the Motion to Reconsider and Rescind Inadmissibility Finding, I emphasized that my client was never convicted of forgery or larceny. The charges were dismissed after he was placed in an alternative rehabilitation program, which did not require him to enter a guilty plea. I also argued that his Voluntary Statement in the police report did not amount to a legally valid admission to committing a CIMT. Thus, the Embassy’s crime-related inadmissibility finding was made in error.

Although my client qualified for the 212(d)(3) nonimmigrant waiver of inadmissibility, the U.S. Customs & Border Protection, Admissibility Review Office normally takes several months to process these requests – even after the Embassy makes a favorable recommendation. The waiver is also valid for a limited period (currently, up to 60 months).

Furthermore, the crime-related bar would remain if left unchallenged. If he were to seek permanent residence in the future, he would require a Form I-601/INA 212(i) immigrant waiver as long as the crime-related bar existed. This immigrant waiver of inadmissibility has much stricter eligibility criteria and higher evidentiary standards.

My client agreed that the Motion to Reconsider and Rescind Inadmissibility Determination was the primary solution and the 212(d)(3) waiver was the alternative remedy. Within one month of accepting his request for representation, I prepared the Motion with a legal memorandum and documentary evidence demonstrating the CIMT bar did not apply or,  at the very least, the 212(d)(3) waiver should be granted.

When my client appeared for his visa interview, the consular officer refused to accept the legal memorandum and accompanying exhibits. Instead, she took only two documents showing the charges had been dismissed. The problem was the Embassy had the same or similar information when it denied the prior J-1 visa application. My client was worried the Embassy would deny the new visa request because it had received no new information since the last denial.

To fully explain the situation, I forwarded the legal memorandum and exhibits to the Embassy in a follow-up email correspondence. I pointed out that my client has no criminal convictions, did not enter any guilty plea, and did not make any legally valid admissions to committing a  CIMT. I also noted that even if his Voluntary Statement to the police counted as a formal admission (which was not the case), the most he admitted to was forgery (not larceny) and he would thus, at a minimum, qualify for the petty offense exception to the CIMT bar. 

Eleven (11) days after I submitted the follow-up correspondence, including the legal memorandum and exhibits, to the Embassy, the J-1 visa was issued to my client. This allowed him to return to the U.S. and timely begin his J-1 exchange visitor program.

While my client was stuck overseas, waiting for his J-1 visa problem to be fixed, he and his wife communicated with me through emails and video calls.  Despite being in separate countries, we formed a strong attorney-client relationship and effective partnership that resulted in a true success story.

Cheers,

Dyan Williams

Founder & Principal Attorney
Dyan Williams Law PLLC
(612) 225-9900
info@dyanwilliamslaw.com

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This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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Updated Notice to Appear (NTA) Guidance Requires USCIS to Initiate Removal Proceedings In More Cases

On June 28, 2018, USCIS issued updated guidance requiring its officers to initiate removal proceedings in more cases to align with President Trump’s executive order, Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.  USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna said the new policy equips USCIS officers to better support the immigration enforcement priorities of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The 2018 memorandum instructs USCIS to issue a Notice to Appear in removal proceedings before an Immigration Judge to inadmissible or deportable persons in an expanded range of situations, instead of referring NTAs to the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) in limited cases.  One major change is that an NTA must be issued whenever a person’s immigration benefit request is denied and he or she is “not lawfully present” in the United States.

What is a Notice to Appear?

A Notice to Appear is a Form I-862 the DHS issues to initiate removal proceedings against a person. The NTA includes the charges against the person and alleges the immigration laws he or she violated.  Some NTAs include the date and time of the initial hearing, when you first appear before an immigration judge who decides whether you should be removed or whether you qualify for relief, including voluntary departure in lieu of a removal order.

What Was the Previous USCIS Policy on Issuing a Notice to Appear? 

The November 7, 2011 Policy Memorandum (PM), which is now superseded by the June 28, 2018 PM, provided “USCIS guidelines for referring cases and issuing Notices to Appear (NTAs) in a manner that promotes the sound use of resources of the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice to enhance national security, public safety, and the integrity of the immigration system. ”

The 2011 policy instructed USCIS to issue an NTA in the following situations:

  • Cases where it is required by statute or regulation, such as termination of Conditional Permanent Resident Status and denials of Form I-751, and asylum referrals.
  • Fraud or willful misrepresentation/section INA 212(a)(6)(C) cases when a Statement of Findings substantiating fraud is part of the record.
  • In naturalization (Form N-400 application) cases where the applicant is removable, including those who were inadmissible at the time of obtaining permanent residence.

The 2011 policy further directed USCIS to refer matters to ICE in the following situations:

  • Egregious Public Safety (EPS) cases “where information indicates the alien is under investigation for, has been arrested for (without disposition), or has been convicted of” certain specified aggravated felonies as defined under section 101(a)(43) of the INA; is a Human Rights Violator, is a known or suspected street gang member or is subject to Interpol  hits; or has re-entered the U.S. after removal subsequent to a felony conviction where no Form I-212, Application for Consent to Reapply for Admission, has been approved.
  • Cases where the person is inadmissible or removable due to a criminal offense falling outside of the EPS definition, after USCIS completes adjudication.

What is the Current USCIS Policy on Issuing a Notice to Appear?

The June 28, 2018 Policy Memorandum (PM) requires USCIS to issue a Notice to Appear in a broader range of cases without first consulting ICE.

Many more persons will be placed in removal proceedings as USCIS is now required to issue an NTA in the following situations:

  • If an application or petition for immigration benefits is denied and the person is not in lawful status (not lawfully present).
  • If an application or petition for immigration benefits is denied and the person is removable (i.e. subject to any removability grounds under INA 237), especially when there is evidence of fraud or misrepresentation and/or abuse of public  benefit programs.
  • Criminal cases in which the applicant is removable and has been convicted of or charged with any criminal offense, or has committed acts that are chargeable as a criminal offense, even if the criminal conduct was not the basis for the denial or is the ground of removability.
  • Naturalization cases in which the applicant is removable and USCIS denies a Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, on good moral character grounds due to a criminal offense.

USCIS will continue to apply the 2011 NTA guidance to the following:

  • Cases involving national security concerns.
  • Cases where issuing an NTA is required by statute or regulation.
  • Temporary Protected Status (TPS) cases, except where, after applying TPS regulatory provisions, a TPS denial or withdrawal results in an individual having no other lawful immigration status.
  • Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and applicants when USCIS is: (1) processing an initial or renewal DACA request or DACA-related benefit request; or (2) processing a DACA recipient for possible termination of DACA.

UPDATE: On September 27, USCIS announced it will begin implementing the new guidance on October 1 in certain cases. For instance, it may issue NTAs on denied status-impacting applications, including Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, and Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. The June 2018 NTA Policy Memo will not be implemented with respect to employment-based petitions and humanitarian applications and petitions at this time. 

In a September 27th teleconference, USCIS also said it will not issue an NTA immediately upon denial of an immigration benefit.  Normally, it will wait for the expiration of the motion or appeal period before issuing an NTA. If an NTA is issued before a motion or appeal is filed or while it is pending, and USCIS takes favorable action on the motion or appeal, USCIS will notify ICE. Withdrawing an application does not cancel USCIS’s authority to issue an NTA. 

Potential Negative Effects of the NTA Policy Change

The new NTA guidance might discourage eligible applicants from seeking immigration benefits out of fear of getting their requests denied and being placed in removal proceedings if they are not lawfully present.  This includes persons applying for a green card (lawful permanent resident status), a change or extension of status, a waiver of inadmissibility and other immigration relief.

Departing the United States on one’s own, after being denied an immigration benefit, will bring harsh penalties when an NTA is issued and the person fails to appear for the scheduled Immigration Court hearing. An in absentia removal order is issued if there is clear, unequivocal and convincing evidence that written notice was provided and that the person is removable, but did not attend the proceeding.

At the same time, those who wait in the United States for an initial court date to appear before an immigration judge will continue to accrue unlawful presence toward the 3/10-year bar to re-entry under INA 212(a)(9)(B).  A person who accrues unlawful presence of more than 180 days but less than one year is barred from re-entering the U.S. for three years. The bar to re-entry is 10 years if the person accrues unlawful presence of more than one year prior to departure. The initiation of removal proceedings does not stop the accrual of unlawful presence.

Furthermore, the updated policy turns USCIS into another immigration enforcement component of DHS, along with ICE and the U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP).  An increase in the issuance of NTAs will create additional backlog in the immigration court system and lengthen USCIS processing times.

Conclusion

Besides the new NTA policy, USCIS issued updated guidance to make it easier to deny a petition or application without first issuing a Request for Evidence or Notice of Intent to Deny. Another  USCIS policy change also subjects more nonimmigrant students and exchange visitors to accruing unlawful presence toward the 3/10-year bar, as well as the permanent bar under INA 212(a)(9)(C).

All these new policies are in line with the February 2018 change in USCIS’ mission statement, deleting sentences that refer to the United States as “a nation of immigrants” and to noncitizens who apply and pay for immigration benefits as “customers.” USCIS Director Cissna explained that this is “a reminder that we are always working for the American people.”

For more information, read our related articles:

Updated Policy Makes It Easier for USCIS to Deny Petitions and Applications Without First Issuing a Request for Evidence (RFE) or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID)

USCIS Policy Change Makes Nonimmigrant Students and Exchange Visitors More Likely to Accrue Unlawful Presence Toward 3/10-Year Bar and Permanent Bar

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This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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Adjusting to Permanent Resident Status Under INA 245(a): Bars, Exceptions and Exemptions

Section 245 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) allows certain foreign nationals who are physically present in the U.S. to adjust to permanent resident status and avoid filing for an immigrant visa at the U.S. Consulate abroad.

But unless an exception or exemption applies, you are barred from filing for INA 245(a) adjustment if you are in unlawful immigration status at the time of filing a Form I-485 [INA 245(c)(2) bar]; you have violated the conditions of your nonimmigrant status or visa [INA 245c)(2) and INA 245(c)(2)(8) bars]; and/or you failed to maintain lawful nonimmigrant status when you would otherwise be eligible for employment-based immigration [INA 245(c)(7) bar].

Statutory Bars to Adjusting Status Under INA 245(a)

The bars to INA 245(a) Adjustment of Status (AOS) include the following:

1. You Are In Unlawful Immigration Status at the Time of Filing a Form I-485 Application: INA 245(c)(2) Bar

Under INA 245(c)(2), an INA 245(a) Adjustment of Status application will be denied if at the time of the Form I-485 filing, you are not in lawful immigration status. For purposes of the INA 245(c)(2) bar, lawful status includes nonimmigrants (e.g. B1/B2 visitor, F-1 student, H-1B professional worker); refugees; asylees; parolees; and foreign nationals in Temporary Protected Status (TPS​).

You are in unlawful immigration status if you have never had lawful status (e.g. entered the U.S. without inspection and admission or parole) or ​your ​lawful status ​has ended​ (expired or was rescinded, revoked, or otherwise terminated due to violation of nonimmigrant status or other reason).

Having authorized stay is different from having lawful immigration status. The timely filing of a pending application to extend or change status (Form I-129 or Form I-539), or a pending application for adjustment (Form I-485), generally provides authorized stay, but does ​not​ provide lawful immigration status.

​A person who has a timely-filed pending Extension of Status (EOS) or Change of Status (COS) application may file a Form I-485 application after his or her nonimmigrant status expires. But if USCIS denies the EOS or COS application, you are generally considered to be in unlawful immigration status as of the expiration of your nonimmigrant status and on the date the adjustment application is filed. The INA 245(c)(2) bar would then apply, unless an exemption is available.

2. You Failed to Continuously Maintain Status and/or Violated the Terms of Your Nonimmigrant Visa: INA 245(c)(2) and INA 245(c)(8) Bars

You are not eligible to file a Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, under ​INA 245(a)​ if, other than through no fault of your own or for technical reasons,​you have ever:

Failed to continuously maintain a lawful status since entry into the United States. [You are barred from adjustment of status under INA 245(c)(2) if you are in unlawful immigration status on the date of filing the Form I-485 application.]

OR

Violated the terms of your nonimmigrant status​, such as worked without authorization. [You are barred from adjustment of status under ​INA 245(c)(8) not only if you violated the terms of your most recent nonimmigrant status, but also if you ever violated the terms of your nonimmigrant status at any time during any prior periods of stay in the U.S. as a nonimmigrant.​]

To be eligible for AOS, you only need to maintain your nonimmigrant status until you properly file a Form I-485 adjustment application with USCIS, ​so​ long as you do not engage in unauthorized employment after filing the adjustment application.​ But to protect yourself from being placed in removal proceedings if your Form I-485 is denied, you should continue to maintain your nonimmigrant status (e.g. H-1B) when possible.

When the ​INA 245(c)(2)​ and ​INA 245(c)(8) Bars May Be Excused

For purposes of ​INA 245(c)(2)​ and ​INA 245(c)(8)​, a failure to maintain lawful immigration status or violation of nonimmigrant status may be excused only for the specific period under consideration if: ​

a. The applicant was reinstated to F, M, or J status

If USCIS reinstates F or M student nonimmigrant status or if the U.S. Department of State reinstates J exchange visitor nonimmigrant status, the reinstatement only excuses the particular period of time the nonimmigrant failed to maintain status. The reinstatement does not excuse prior or future failure to maintain status.​

b. The applicant’s failure to maintain status was through no fault of his or her own or for technical reasons

The term  “other than through no fault of his or her own or for technical reasons”​ ​is limited to the following​ ​circumstances:​ 

  • Inaction of another person or organization designated by regulation to act on behalf of an applicant or over whose actions the applicant has no control, if the inaction is acknowledged by that person or organization.
  • Technical violation resulting from inaction of USCIS (e.g. USCIS failed to adjudicate a properly and timely filed request to extend or change nonimmigrant status).
  • Technical violation caused by the physical inability of the applicant to request an extension of nonimmigrant stay from USCIS in person or by mail.
  • Technical violation resulting from Legacy ​Immigration and Naturalization Service (​INS​)​’s application of the 5-​year​ or 6-year period of stay for certain H-1 nurses, if the nurse was re-instated to H-1 status as a result of the Immigration Amendments of 1988.​

c. The applicant was granted an extension of nonimmigrant stay or a change of nonimmigrant status.

The immigration officer will consider all your current and previous entries into and stays in the United States, including current and previous applications for extension of stay (EOS) or change of status (COS).

If USCIS approves a timely filed EOS or COS application, or excuses and approves an untimely filed EOS or COS application, the approval is effective as of the date of the expiration of the prior nonimmigrant status. In that event, you will be considered to have maintained lawful​ status ​despite the gap in time between the expiration of the prior nonimmigrant admission and the date of the EOS or COS approval.

3. You Are an Employment-Based Applicant Who Is Not in Lawful Nonimmigrant Status: INA 245(c)(7) Bar

If you are an employment-based adjustment applicant who is not in a lawful nonimmigrant status at the time of filing your Form I-485 application, you are barred from adjusting status under INA 245(c)(7). This bar does not apply if you were in a lawful nonimmigrant status at the time of filing for adjustment, subsequently left the United States, and returned using an approved advance parole travel document while the adjustment application remains pending. ​

For purposes of this bar to adjustment, the term “lawful nonimmigrant status” includes a foreign national in a lawful status classified under the nonimmigrant statutory provisions(e.g. B1/B2 visitor, F-1 student, H-1B professional worker) and a foreign national in Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

​Lawful nonimmigrant status does not include parolees, ​asylees​, or certain other foreign nationals who are otherwise authorized to stay in the United States. ​

Exceptions and Exemptions to the Bars to Adjusting Status Under INA 245(a)

The ​INA 245(c)(2)​, ​INA 245(c)(8), and INA 245(c)(7)​ bars to adjustment do NOT apply to: ​

  • Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens [spouses, unmarried children under 21 years of age, and parents (if the U.S. citizen is 21 years of age or older)]
  • ​Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) self-petitioners/VAWA-based applicants
  • ​Certain foreign doctors/physicians and their accompanying spouse and children​
  • ​Certain G-4 international organization employees, NATO-6 employees, and their family members
  • Special immigrant juveniles
  • ​Certain members of the U.S. ​armed forces​ and their spouse​s​ and children​
  • ​Employment-based applicants and eligible dependents in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and certain 4th preference categories who meet the ​INA 245(k) exemption.
    • To qualify for the INA 245(k) exemption, the applicant must not have committed any of the following immigration violations for more than an aggregate of 180 days since the most recent lawful admission: ​failed to continuously maintain lawful nonimmigrant status; engaged in unauthorized employment;  or violated the terms of the nonimmigrant status.
    • With respect to the INA 245(k) exemption, the law counts only status violations and unauthorized employment since the applicant’s most recent lawful admission. Regardless of how long the immigration violations under INA 245(c)(2), INA 245(c)(7) and INA 245(c)(8) lasted, the applicant who leaves the  U.S. and is lawfully readmitted (and is an eligible employment-based adjustment applicant), may qualify for the INA 245(k) exemption as long as there were no violations totaling more than 180 days in the aggregate since the most recent lawful admission.

​Bars to Adjustment are Different from Grounds of Inadmissibility​

Bars to adjustment should not be confused with the grounds of inadmissibility listed in INA 212.

When you are inadmissible under section 212, you may not adjust status unless you qualify for a limited exception or unless a waiver of inadmissibility is available, you qualify for it, and it is granted to you. Inadmissibility grounds include health concerns (communicable disease of public health significance), criminal activity, national security, public charge, fraud and misrepresentation of material facts to gain immigration benefits, unlawful presence, and prior removals.

Consult an Experienced Immigration Attorney

Because there are various bars and inadmissibility grounds to prevent AOS, as well as exemptions and waivers available, you need to consult an immigration attorney before you file a Form I-485 application to adjust to permanent resident status.

To learn more, read our related article, Who is Eligible (and Not Eligible) for Adjustment to Permanent Resident Status? 

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This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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