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International Students Deserve Thanks

bigstock-Close-up-of-male-hands-with-pe-46137757The next time you encounter a student in the United States from another country, say “thanks!” International students contributed $24 billion to the U.S. economy in the 2012-2013 academic year. A report published in November by the Association of International Educators (NAFSA) found that foreign students bring a lot more than a desire to learn when they enter the United States.

Spending by the 819,644 students bolsters an estimated 313,000 jobs in the United States, and the $24 billion spent in academic year 2012-2013 represented a 10 percent increase in spending over the previous academic year. Spending by foreign students and their families was highest in California, New York, Massachusetts, Texas, and Pennsylvania. By their spending on education, housing, food, clothing, transportation, telecommunications, and insurance, international students and their families create an estimated three jobs for every seven students and families.

International enrollment is surging in the United States, and last year it increased by 7.2 percent over the 2011-2012 academic year. The direct, tangible economic benefits of having foreign students come to the U.S. are undeniable; $24 billion is hard to ignore. But the less apparent benefits are perhaps even more important than money; increased cross-cultural friendships and understanding, and maybe just a smaller step toward a more peaceful world.

Even for the most savvy scholars and scientists, immigrating to the United States is often tricky and always difficult. Foreign students should consult with an experienced immigration attorney to answer any questions or concerns regarding their immigration status and related matters. If you are accused of violating any immigration law or regulation, promptly contact an experienced immigration attorney to provide the legal representation you’ll need. A good immigration lawyer will also assist with visa applications and with any immigration-related interviews or hearings. Whatever your immigration-related legal concern may be, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced immigration attorney right away.

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EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program

bigstock-Close-up-of-male-hands-with-pe-46137757Jay Peak is a year-round resort in northern Vermont featuring an indoor waterpark, ice arena, championship golf course, and New England’s best skiing and snowboarding. The resort offers a summer camp for kids, an August Music Festival, and corporate retreat facilities with all the accommodations and amenities.

Bill Stenger, the CEO of the Jay Peak resort, told NPR, “About $275 million has been raised and spent or in the process of being spent.” All of that money came from 550 foreign investors, many of whom are from China. Each agreed to risk a $500,000 investment for a project offering to create jobs in the U.S. In return, the government granted green cards to the immediate family members of investors, allowing them to live in the United States. It’s called the EB-5 immigrant investor program, created by Congress in 1990. Stenger says in 2008, when the recession hit and traditional financing disappeared, the EB-5 program was a lifesaver. Without EB-5 funds, the Jay Peak resort wouldn’t exist as visitors know it today. “We would be the same old sleepy little ski resort we were back in 2006 versus a four-season, very different place today,” Stenger says.

Since 2006, EB-5 projects have brought about $600 million into Vermont, which has operated an EB-5 Regional Center since 1997. Today, more than 300 EB-5 centers operate across the country. Most are private, for-profit organizations that solicit business proposals and recruit investors for those projects. Several of the privately-operated EB-5 centers have been accused of defrauding investors, so some investors find a state-run regional center to be more trustworthy, even though investments are never guaranteed.

If you are a foreign investor, a foreign national considering investment, or a U.S.-based business person seeking foreign investment, speak with an experienced EB-5 investor visa attorney about EB-5 visas and foreign investments in the United States. A good immigration lawyer can explain the complicated laws and regulations related to foreign investments in the U.S. Forms, petitions, applications, and guidelines are constantly changing and evolving, and enforcement is stringent, so you need legal advice that you can count on. Contact our experienced EB-5 investor visa attorneys and get the guidance you need today.

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Raising The H-1B Cap

bigstock-People-Visa-Sign-1751484Businesses throughout the United States are starting to assess their H-1B visa needs for fiscal year 2015. Greater competition than ever is expected for the limited number of available H-1B visas. Raising the number of available H-1B visas would help ever-growing U.S. business needs. The H-1B visa allows U.S.-based businesses to hire foreign nationals in specialty occupations and specialized fields such as architecture, engineering, science, medicine, and math. Workers must hold at least a bachelor’s degree and may work in the U.S. for up to six years.

Since 2005, only 85,000 H-1B visas are available each year, and 20,000 of those are reserved for workers with advanced degrees from U.S.-based institutions. Employers, particularly those in the high-tech sector, are expressing a need for more H-1B visas to meet the demands of the U.S. labor market. The H-1B cap has been reached earlier every year since FY 2011, and it is expected to be reached rapidly once again for in FY 2015, demonstrating that the H-1B cap is set too low to meet the needs of U.S.-based employers.

Raising the H-1B cap will not cause a “flood” of foreign-born workers, as some opponents have feared. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that there were more than 31 million workers in professional and related occupations in the United States in 2012. The H-1B cap of 85,000 is less than three-tenths of one percent of this figure, so raising the H-1B cap would not negatively impact U.S. workers.

Employers or prospective employees with questions or concerns about seeking an H-1B visa should consult with an experienced immigration attorney as quickly as possible. A good immigration lawyer can assess your situation and provide the legal advice you need; he or she can also assist with forms, applications, and other immigration-related paperwork and procedures. If you’re an employer or worker trying to obtain an H-1B visa, or if you have any questions or issues pertaining to immigration-related employment, obtain the counsel of an experienced immigration attorney right away.

What Is Advance Parole?

bigstock-Immigrant-Families-On-The-Marc-5038074If you’re an immigrant in the United States applying for a green card, it’s a good idea not to leave the country – unless you have to – while your application is being processed. Immigration authorities may determine that you have abandoned your green card application in mid-process. However, it’s a prolonged process – 9 to 12 months – so if you must take a short trip outside the U.S., be sure to apply for and obtain an Advance Parole Document (also called a “Travel Document”).

You are not required to have the Advance Parole Document in order to leave the country, but without it you might not be allowed back in. The Advance Parole Document is designed for brief trips outside the country such as weddings, funerals, or short business trips. If you know the details of your trip, apply for the Advance Parole Document as early as possible by completing and filing Form I-131, the Application for Travel Document.

You may complete and file Form I-131 along with your green card application. The application fee for Form I-131 is $360. An added biometric (fingerprinting) fee of $85 may also be charged. Processing time varies but may take up to 90 days. For legitimate reasons like a death in the family, the process can be accelerated for an additional fee. An Advance Parole Document is good for a year. Try not to be out of the U.S. longer than a month, however; that’s the maximum stretch of time you should be overseas while your green card application undergoes processing.

If you are an immigrant with any questions or concerns regarding your status, visa, green card application, or any other legal matter, speak at once to an experienced immigration attorney. A good immigration lawyer can help you and your family with any immigration issue you face and defend you if you’re accused of violating immigration law.

He or she will review your forms and applications for thoroughness and accuracy. Immigration laws will continually change, but an experienced immigration attorney will always be able to give you the legal advice you need. For help with any aspect of immigration law, don’t hesitate to contact a good immigration lawyer right away.

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You Don’t Have to Face Deportation – Removal Alone

bigstock-Citizenship-documents-43205116Should the government issue a foreign citizen an Order of Removal, or deportation notice, the person is very likely going to feel scared, helpless, angry, and a wide range of other emotions that would be more than understandable in the situation. Luckily, individuals don’t have to fight a deportation notice alone; they can invest in the help of an experienced immigration and expulsion attorney, instead.

Not a Criminal Matter

Only individuals who are going through the criminal courts have the guaranteed right to an attorney. Because immigration matters are handled by administrative courts and are therefore considered administrative proceedings, the right to an attorney does not extend into the immigration courts. Although not guaranteed, the ability to have an attorney represent a case still exists as an option which anyone forced to stand for an immigration hearing can and should exercise.

Why an Attorney is So Important

Immigration policy, as it currently stands, does not care whether a person has been in the United States for his or her whole life, has paid taxes on time for his or her whole adult life, has started a business in his or her local community, or done anything else good for the county and society as a whole. A person who is not either a natural born or naturalized U.S. citizen may be deported from the country for one of any number of offenses, ranging from violation of an administrative immigration rule (like failing to renew a visa) to violation of a serious and/or violent criminal offense.

This means that a single mistake could put a person’s life in the United States in major jeopardy. With the threat of a deportation looming after a deportation order has been issued, foreign citizens in the United States simply can’t afford not to work with experienced legal counsel. In many cases, an attorney may be able to have a deportation order postponed or dismissed entirely.

Getting Started with Legal Counsel

As soon as a person facing expulsion partners with an experienced immigration attorney, that person will experience relief from a major burden almost immediately. Instead of worrying about what he or she is going to do, the person facing deportation can continue with life as normal as the attorney works his or her hardest to craft an argument against deportation and have it presented to the court.

Attorney Expenses

If they are concerned that the cost of an attorney may be too expensive to afford, individuals facing deportation or removal orders should consider how much is on the line if they end up getting deported. The expense of an attorney will be seen as more than fair if the attorney is able to help the person remain in the United States and continue living life as normal.

If they don’t hire an attorney, individuals facing deportation will be expected to stand for deportation / removal hearings on their own and to present their own cases for why a deportation order should be cancelled. If they have never had to present a case in court, then those facing deportation be placed at an obvious disadvantage, since the government attorney pressing for a deportation will have a considerable amount of legal experience over the person self representing.

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How to Help a Loved One Get a Green Card by Relationship

bigstock-Business-people-shaking-hands--13871435-1In the United States, a green card is a document that states the holder is a lawful permanent resident of the United States. Lawful permanent resident status is the highest immigration status that a foreign citizen can earn in the United States before becoming a naturalized citizen. People from foreign countries may try for years to get a green card because of how valuable the document is and the rights and privileges that it can afford, but only U.S. citizens are free from the risk of deportation.

Green card holders may be lawful permanent residents of the United States, and they may live their entire lives in the United States, but only natural born and naturalized citizens of the United States are free from the risk of deportation. This means that green card holders may technically be deported if they are found to have violated immigration policy or a serious criminal offense, which is why anyone applying for or currently holding a green card is advised to be on his or her best behavior to avoid any risk of a deportation.

Can a Family Member be Sponsored?

Current rules in America’s immigration system allow individuals from foreign countries to qualify for a green card by family relationship. If the person is related by blood or marriage to a qualified member of the family, and that member of the family is him or herself a lawful permanent resident or U.S. citizen, then the permanent resident or citizen may be allowed to sponsor the foreign family member for a green card.

U.S. citizens have considerably more flexibility on who they can sponsor, as they may sponsor spouses, children, and siblings. Lawful permanent residents on the other hand, who are holders of green cards themselves, may only sponsor spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21. If a lawful permanent resident wants to sponsor a sibling or adult child, then the resident will have to first become a naturalized U.S. citizen before being able to sponsor the foreign family member.

Getting the Green Card

In order to begin the process of sponsoring a foreign family member, citizens and current permanent residents have to file a Form I-130 with the US Citizenship and Immigration Service. The form is a Petition for Alien Relative. If the foreign family member is already lawfully located in the United States, perhaps under a work or student visa, then the sponsoring person will have to file a Form I-485.

Assuming that a foreign family member is outside of the United States at the time the sponsoring citizen or resident wants to sponsor the person, then the foreign family member may be required to complete his or her portion of the petitioning process through a U.S. embassy or consulate in the person’s country of origin / current residence.

For best results, sponsors and sponsored family members are encouraged to partner with an experienced immigration attorney for help through the green card application process. The attorney will ensure that all of the person’s paperwork has been filled out properly and that the application and any supporting documents are submitted in accordance with immigration rules.

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Becoming a Naturalized U.S. Citizen

bigstock-Close-up-of-male-hands-with-pe-46137757The naturalization process is one which allows a foreign citizen to become a full fledged United States citizen, granted the same rights and privileges as any natural born citizen, including the right to vote in federal elections, which is something that visa holders and lawful permanent residents can’t do, even if they have been in the United States for a majority of their lives.

Qualifying for Naturalization

In order to qualify for naturalization, a person must be a lawful permanent resident of the United States for at least five years.  If the person seeking naturalization is married to a U.S. citizen, then the wait is reduced to just three years.  The wait may be substantially reduced if the person seeking naturalization served in the military for a qualifying period of time.  A child can be naturalized if the child was born to U.S. citizens on foreign soil, even if the family remains outside of the country for an extended period of time after the child’s birth.

Children Born to Foreign Parents

Children who were born on foreign soil to foreign parents may not need to apply for naturalization because, if the children’s birth or adoptive parents became naturalized U.S. citizens before the child turned 18, then the child may already be considered a U.S. citizen.

English and Civics Testing Requirement

Prior to becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen and taking the Oath of Naturalization, which finalizes the process, the foreign citizen seeking to be naturalized must successfully pass a basic English and civics test administered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.  Certain exemptions to this testing requirement exist for individuals who have been in the United States for a certain number of years and those who are at least a certain age – if a person may qualify for an exemption to the testing requirement, then an attorney can advise the person of this fact and the benefits which the exemption provides.

Other Benefits of Working with an Attorney

Along with getting the most up to date information on testing exemptions which may exist for foreign citizens who are trying to become naturalized U.S. citizens, a person who partners with an experienced immigration and naturalization attorney for help through the naturalization application process receives several major benefits that those who try to apply for naturalization on their own don’t get to enjoy.  Benefits like being able to have an experienced legal professional look over an application to ensure it is filled out completely and properly, and having a professional on hand to offer custom tailored advice to a person’s specific immigration related questions..

Prior to Naturalization

Until the naturalization process is finalized, a foreign citizen may still be deported or removed from the United States and sent back to his or her country of origin for violations of major U.S. laws and for violations of certain immigration policies.  Only after naturalized citizenship is granted is a former foreign citizen free from the risk of being ordered removed from the country.  However, if a naturalization is procured by fraud, then an immigration court may revoke the fraudster’s citizenship and have the person returned to his or her country of origin.

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How to Work in the United States as a Foreign Citizen

bigstock-Small-Business-owner-with-ope-24830186Foreign citizens who wish to hold a job in the United States will need the permission of the government in order to do so. Working as a foreign citizen in the United States without the appropriate documentation puts the foreign citizen at risk of removal / deportation and puts the employer or person who hired the foreign citizen at risk of fines and/or criminal prosecution from the federal government. Generally, foreign citizens from foreign countries who visit the United States on a tourist visa are not allowed to work or conduct any business while in the U.S.

Temporary Work Visas

According to our business immigration lawyers, temporary work visas can be issued to foreign citizens who would like to travel to the United States for work or business but who have no long term intention of remaining in the country. To qualify for these types of work visas, the foreign citizen must secure a position which would qualify for the visa to be issued. Once expired, this type of visa is no longer active and the person must return to his or her country of origin.

Lawful Permanent Resident Status

For foreign citizens who think that they would like to remain in the United States indefinitely, then they will have to apply for permanent resident status in order to be able to stay employed in the United States for an extended period of time. When granted lawful permanent resident status, the foreign citizen is issued a green card stating that he or she is allowed to remain in the country indefinitely and is allowed to enjoy all of the privileges of being a lawful permanent resident.

While lawful permanent resident status will allow a foreign citizen to remain employed and working in the United States, it will not protect the foreign citizen from the risk of deportation, which means that if a lawful permanent resident with a valid green card violates a serious U.S. law or other rule of U.S. immigration policy, no matter how long the person has been in the United States, he or she may be subject to removal / deportation by an immigration court.

Full American Citizenship

The only way to ensure that a foreign born person will not be deported from the United States is if that person becomes a naturalized U.S. citizen. Once a naturalized U.S. citizen, a foreign born person receives the rights and privileges to live, work, and remain in the United States just the same as any person who was born in this country and who received citizenship by birth.

Getting an Attorney to Help

A foreign citizen is required to spend a number of years as a lawful permanent resident before being allowed to apply for naturalization, but an attorney can still provide immediate legal advice on work visa options to foreign citizens who would like to come to the United States to work, whether they plan on becoming eventual lawful permanent residents or they just want to work in the country for a brief period before returning back home.

For more information, speak to a business immigration lawyer today.

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Advocates For Reform Are Optimistic

bigstock-Immigration-3151682Activists working to overhaul America’s immigration system are proclaiming victory at the end of Congress’ August recess. Why? Because they haven’t lost in Congress yet, and public opinion seems to be moving in their direction. With legislation slowed in the House of Representatives, the movement to reform immigration has not topped the news in the weeks that Congress has been in recess.

Reformers worried that opponents would pack town-hall meetings and conduct rallies, repeating the Tea Party actions that pushed healthcare reform off course in the summer of 2009, but that opposition hasn’t materialized. The Partnership for a New American Economy, a group that works for immigration reform, issued a statement saying, “What’s more important than what we have seen is what we haven’t seen. August was a resounding win for us.” Reformers say their confidence is based on the need that many Republicans see in engaging Hispanic voters as Republicans for future elections.

The reform advocates point to support for a path to citizenship from many House Republicans as proof of their progress. They are optimistic about passing reform legislation in spite of the uncertain political picture in Washington, where Republicans may focus on other issues this fall. One bipartisan plan is stalled because it still lacks the support of a majority of Republicans, which is what it will take to get an up-or-down vote on the floor of the House. Lawmakers in both parties claim they want a final bill approved by the end of the year.

While the current situation offers reason for hope, these delays are nevertheless agonizing for millions who have worked diligently to attain permanent residency or American citizenship. If you are dealing with any immigration issue, or if you have any questions regarding your immigration status (or the status of a loved one), you should speak immediately to an experienced immigration lawyer. A good immigration attorney will evaluate your individual case, explain your options to you, and guide you through every step of the process, working conscientiously for you, your family, and your rights, hopes, and dreams.

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OPT Visa Program Expanded

bigstock-Passport-Gavel-5802855June 28, 2012

In May the Obama administration decided to increase the parameters for Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, significantly increasing the number of fields involved. This is a somewhat significant development, potentially impacting thousands of students across the country.

For those unfamiliar with OPT visa, it is a temporary employment program connected with Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics (STEM) students in the United States on F-1 visas. OPT allows F-1 visa students to remain in the country and work for an additional 29 months before or after completion of their education.

In 2008 President George W. Bush added a 17-month extension to the program, increasing the maximum length of the visa from 12 months to its current parameters. To be eligible for the extension, the applicant must have received his or her STEM degree and have an employer enrolled in E-Verify.

The big change unveiled last month is that the administration is adding approximately 90 eligible fields to the total pool of OPT visa, with raises the number to 400. There will be no change to the 29-month limit.

New fields added to the program include Neuroscience, Pharmaceuticals and Aeronautics. Many of the new fields are additional disciplines under the umbrella of traditional STEM majors related to Mathematics, Engineering and Physics.

Studies have shown the vast majority of approved extension requests are for F-1 students studying math, engineering or some science-related discipline.

The U.S. has issued approximately 35,000 OPT extensions since the beginning of the program. Less than 700 extension applications have been denied. A Freedom of Information Act request by Computerworld revealed that there are 5,000 or so extension applications currently working through the system.

In some circles the Bush extension is still viewed as a controversial move. Critics thought it was a way to circumvent the H-1B cap limitation.

This expansion of the number of fields will no doubt add to that debate. On the heels of the Obama’s administration’s OPT expansion Charles Grassley, a senator from Iowa, requested a Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigation. Grassley cited concerns related to oversight, national security and potential impact on the economy and American workforce.

For us, this is a step in the right direction. It is an opportunity for graduates to gain some much-needed experience. And it is, in fact, a back-door to extending the H-1B program, but that is something we welcome.

This move puts pressure on graduating U.S. workers in some fields, but we don’t expect they will have issues finding work. Graduated with these kinds of degrees continue to be scarce.

And for the most part the expansion is minimal. It is a cosmetic move, with the administration wanting to put on the icing while taking credit for the entire cake. Obama is trying to show himself as a pro-business President, when he has not been as strong in that area as his predecessor.