Immigration Blog

Immigration benefits for military families

Posted by on Jul 18, 2014 in Immigration | Comments Off on Immigration benefits for military families

Military family

Hanes and Bartels serves many military families with immigration information and benefits.

We work with clients from all over the country — indeed, all over the world!  But because our office is located in Colorado Springs, we’ve been fortunate to assist many clients from our local military facilities.

Colorado Springs has a major military presence.  It’s a big part of our economy and our city’s culture and history.  Our largest facility is Fort Carson (U.S. Army) and we have enjoyed helping many soldiers there to become U.S. citizens and to bring their loved ones here from overseas with fiancée, spouse, and children’s and parents’  visas.  But we have also assisted military servicemembers and veterans from Petersen Air Force Base, Schriever Air Force Base, and the U.S. Air Force Academy.  And we think it’s only a matter of time before someone from NORAD under CheyenneMountain gives us a call!

As immigration attorneys, we have options to help our military members that aren’t available to the civilian population.  For example, active-duty members of the military can naturalize (become U.S. citizens) without having to wait for many years like civilians, and without having to pay the high government filing fees.  They can also sponsor their family members without having to show the same high level of income as civilians.  And in one of my favorite types of case, military members and veterans can get green cards (Permanent Residency) for their spouses, parents, and children here within the United States through a relatively new process called Parole-in-Place.

Many immigration attorneys aren’t familiar with the special immigration options for our military.  I’ve seen it happen several times – a client comes to our office to get a second opinion, because they saw an immigration lawyer in Denver who told them nothing could be done, or that they had few options.  But most Denver immigration lawyers rarely or never work with military clients!  There just isn’t the Army and Air Force presence up there that we have here in southern Colorado.  So even though they might otherwise be good attorneys, they just don’t have the experience to know of the immigration agencies’ specific military phone hotlines, email addresses, etc.  Or they are not familiar with the special military benefits available under immigration law.

If you’re in the Army or Air Force, or you are a U.S. military veteran, make sure that the immigration attorney helping you knows the special legal options for our military and their loved ones.

Please contact us today to schedule a consultation.  Mention your military connection —  we discount our consultation rates for military families and will also reduce the price for our legal services.  It’s our small way of saying thank you for the sacrifices our military and their families make for us.

Becoming a United States citizen

Posted by on Jul 18, 2014 in Immigration | Comments Off on Becoming a United States citizen

For many immigrants, becoming a citizen of the United States is a lifelong dream.  For example, my own parents (this is Hanes & Bartels attorney Eric Pavri writing) grew up in Germany and India dreaming of someday making their way to America.  They both came to the US as students in a medical field, and through hard work and patience eventually “naturalized” as US citizens.

US citizenship is one of the most important steps that you can take to ensure a secure future for you and your family.  Once you become a US citizen, unless you lied or falsified information to do so, your citizenship can never be taken away without your consent.  You can never be deported, you’ll know that you’re a full member of our nation, and you can shape the country’s future by voting.

Generally speaking, in order to become a United States citizen, you have to have lived in the United States as a Lawful Permanent Resident (“green card” holder) for 5 years and have been a person of “good moral character” (this basically means that you don’t have a criminal record, have paid your taxes, etc).  You file a form from the USCIS (on of the federal government immigration agencies) called the N-400 that contains dozens of detailed and sometimes confusing questions, pay a fee (currently $680 with the cost for background check fingerprints included), and then go to take the citizenship test at an interview with a USCIS office.

However, an immigrants who got his/her green card by marrying a United States citizen can apply to naturalize (become citizens) after only 3 years as a Permanent Resident.  And a military member can in many cases apply for citizenship immediately, with no wait time (and an exemption from the high government filing fees).

The citizenship process can be confusing, however.  Figuring out how to answer many of the questions on the N-400 form, and making sure to provide the correct supporting documentation, can be intimidating.  Particularly if you have some criminal history in your past (even relatively minor things like traffic cases), or if you have spent a significant amount of time outside of the country since getting your green card, you should definitely consult with an immigration lawyer instead of trying it yourself.  Unfortunately, I’ve seen too many people file the N-400 on their own who wind up facing a deportation case – a situation that could have been avoided if they would have consulted with an attorney.

Because of my own family’s history, helping immigrants to become U.S. citizens is perhaps my favorite part of my profession as an immigration attorney.  I would be thrilled to help you or your family member to apply for US citizenship.  Please call or email our office, and a member of my staff will help you to schedule a consultation with me.  I look forward to working with you!

Parole in Place for family members of the military – A “New” Option

Posted by on Jul 18, 2014 in Immigration | Comments Off on Parole in Place for family members of the military – A “New” Option

In a recent policy memo, published last fall, the federal immigration agency USCIS clarified its procedures for a little-known immigration law benefit for military families called Parole in Place.  Parole in place allows the spouses, parents, or children of active-duty and retired military to get a Form I-94.  This little piece of paper means that they can be eligible to “adjust status” to Permanent Resident (green card holder) even if their previous entry to the United States was not by lawful means.

This memo got a surprising amount of airtime in the national media.  To me, the coverage was surprising.  I wasn’t surprised because I think Parole in Place is unimportant (to the contrary, it’s very important), but because in many cases the media got it wrong, informing the public that this was a “new” policy.

In fact, Parole in Place for the families of military servicemembers has been an “unofficial” part of immigration policy for many years.  The USICS has long had the legal authority to do this under the Immigration and Nationality Act, Sections 212(d)(5)(A) and 235(a)(1).  But the first written confirmation of the policy didn’t come until an August 30, 2010 letter from then-Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to members of the U.S. Congress.

Most immigration attorneys previously believed that Parole in Place could only be used for military spouses.  But in fact, even before last fall’s memo, here at Hanes & Bartels we had successfully applied for Parole in Place for the children and parents of several Fort Carson U.S. Army soldiers.  It can be used for any “immediate relative” (parent, spouse, or minor child).

Many immigration lawyers never even knew about Parole in Place until the recent memo.  I’ve been surprised at how many of my colleagues in Colorado (who know that our firm does a lot of military immigration cases because we have FortCarson and Air Force bases here in Colorado Springs), have been calling me in the past few months to learn more about the “new” option of Parole in Place.

If you serve in the military, or you a military veteran, call our office to ask what your immigration options might be for your family members.  We’d be glad to serve you, and we proudly offer discounts to our military clients.

Adjustment of Status –Help your Spouse become a Permanent Resident

Posted by on Jul 18, 2014 in Immigration | Comments Off on Adjustment of Status –Help your Spouse become a Permanent Resident

Adjustment of Status is a type of case we handle often: a US citizen wants to apply for a green card for his/her husband or wife who is already living here in the United States.  The easiest way to do this is through a process called Adjustment of Status using the form I-485.

Adjustment of Status is possible if the immigrant spouse entered the United States legally – in other words, they showed a passport, visa, Border Crossing card, or other proper documentation at a US land border or an international airport when they were “admitted” to the United States.

In cases where the immigrant spouse entered the United States illegally, Adjustment of Status is usually not an option (except for military families).  For more information on those cases, please see my other blog posts on the “waiver” processes (I-601 and I-601A).

Normally, at the successful conclusion of the Adjustment of Status process, the immigrant spouse receives a Permanent Resident card (Form I-551, sometimes called a “green card”) that is valid for 10 years and can be renewed every 10 years after that.  Of course, many new Permanent Residents apply for US citizenship well before those first 10 years expire.

If the couple is recently married (marriage less than 2 years old), however, then the new Permanent Resident card will be valid for only two years.  This is called Conditional Permanent Residence.  The basic idea is that the immigration agency, USCIS, is always watching out for fake marriages that are just for the purpose of getting immigration papers.  That two-year period is one more way that USCIS seeks to make the couple prove that the marriage is real.  I like to tell clients that it’s a little like marriage probation or a marriage test – if you were just doing this for papers, you probably wouldn’t live together for two years.  In the 90-day period before the two years are up, the couple will have to file another Form called I-751 to convert the Conditional Permanent Resident card to a regular, 10-year Permanent Resident card.  To do so, they have to prove that they were living together for the two years, with some exceptions (for example, if one spouse is in the military and deployed overseas).

Serving those who serve us – Getting citizenship for an Army soldier

Posted by on Apr 4, 2014 in Immigration | Comments Off on Serving those who serve us – Getting citizenship for an Army soldier

Last fall, a U.S. Army soldier from Fort Carson here in Colorado Springs found our website and emailed us about getting citizenship.  He explained that in three weeks, he was about to be deployed for the third time to the Middle East.  But even though he had already spent years risking his life defending our country, he still was not a citizen of the United States!   And an aspect of his new assignment required a U.S. passport.

We moved appointments around on our calendars and invited him to our office immediately.  Normally the citizenship process for a Permanent Resident takes 4-6 months.  But because of his active-duty military status, we emailed and telephoned our contacts at USCIS (the Immigration agency) directly to arrange for expedited processing of his application and a waiver of all government filing fees.  We got him a citizenship interview within weeks.

I was very proud to stand next to him following our interview, as he took his oath of allegiance and became a United States citizen.  He shipped out three days later to the Middle East.  But I am proud to say that this soldier now knew that the nation whose flag he was fighting under fully recognized him as a citizen.

If you contact us for a consultation, be sure to mention your military connection —  we offer military discounts to servicemembers and their families.

How To Immigrate Successfully

Posted by on Dec 23, 2013 in Immigration | Comments Off on How To Immigrate Successfully

How To Immigrate Successfully

Immigrating successfully isn’t about luck, it’s about skill and knowledge.  Immigration law is very complex.  Too many people try it on their own, or cut corners by hiring someone who’s not a licensed attorney — and then they regret it.  Mistakes that an experienced attorney won’t make can lead to long delays and cost you far more in the long run to fix.  Don’t fall into that trap.  Your future, and your family’s future, is too important.  There are things worth paying for, so you should consider expert assistance to immigrate successfully.

We’ve guided hundreds of clients to visas, green cards, and US citizenship.  We help employers to sponsor their employees, we get Residency for our clients’ husbands, wives, parents, and children, and we vigorously defend clients facing deportation.  And in just the past year, we’ve helped dozens of young people to get Deferred Action (DACA).  We help our clients every step of the way, from the initial forms to the final interviews with immigration officers.  Our attorneys are fluent in Spanish, and we have the most experienced immigration staff in southern Colorado.

Don’t take chances and hope you’re successful. Work with an expert from the start to handle your immigration case correctly.  It’s an investment you make now, that will pay for itself many times over in the years to come.

The Latest on DACA (Deferred Action)

Posted by on Dec 6, 2013 in Immigration | 0 comments

The Latest on DACA (Deferred Action)

We at Hanes & Bartels LLC have thoroughly enjoyed helping dozens of young people to take advantage of the program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) that began on June 15 of 2012.  Through these cases, we have helped high school valedictorians, budding scientists, and star high school and college athletes to get some relief from the uncertainty of living without legal immigration status.  Many of these young people were brought to the US by their parents when they were infants or young children, and grew up speaking only English and knowing no other country but the United States.

At first we were getting these cases approved in 2.5 – 3 months on average after we submitted.  But since about March of this year, we’ve seen even good DACA cases taking many more months for approval.  Our observations match the national trend – the average DACA processing time has increased to about 6 months.  We suspect that USCIS, the immigration agency, has diverted resources to other programs such as the new provisional waivers (I-601A).  There may therefore simply be fewer USCIS adjudicators to review DACA applications, so approvals are taking longer.

We have also seen USCIS get more picky about the evidence required, for example, of continuous physical presence in the US.  The national trend is to see more RFE (Requests for Evidence) letters from USCIS asking for additional, detailed documentation.

However, DACA remains an excellent option for many young people.  If you meet the following requirements, come speak to us to see if you can qualify.  The benefits include removing the constant risk of deportation, getting authorization to work in the US, getting a social security number, and getting a Colorado Driver’s License.

The basic DACA requirements:

  • entered the US before turning 16
  • between the ages of 15 and 31 now
  • graduated high school, in high school, or in a G.E.D. program
  • been in the US since June 15, 2007
  • relatively clean criminal record (minor traffic tickets are okay)

I-601A Stateside Provisional Waivers

Posted by on Dec 6, 2013 in Immigration | 0 comments

We experienced a surge of calls and first-time consults after USCIS (the federal immigration benefits agency) rolled out the implementation of the new stateside provisional waiver process last spring (March 4, 2013, to be exact).

This process created a new, better option for countless immigrants.  It has always been the case that, even if married to a US citizen, an immigrant who had entered the US by illegally crossing the border cannot “adjust status” – that is, they can’t get their Residency (green card) through an application and interview here in the United States.  Instead, they are required to return to their home country and apply for Residency at a US Consulate there.  The catch is that if they have spent more than one year without legal immigration status in the US, they are barred from returning legally to the US for at least 10 years.  However, that 10-year penalty can be waived by USCIS if the immigrant demonstrates that his/her US citizen spouse or parent will suffer “extreme hardship” if their immigrant child or spouse has to remain outside of the US for 10 years.

All that remains the same under the new system.  What has changed is the process of applying for that waiver.  Let’s take an example:

Sarah is a US citizen.  She’s been married to Mario for 7 years.  They have two young daughters together.  Mario was born in Mexico, crossed the border for the first time without papers 10 years ago, and has been here ever since.  He has never been arrested or been in jail.

In the past, after Sarah completed an I-130, the first step in applying for Mario, and jumped through several more hoops by sending various documents and fee payments to the National Visa Center (NVC), Mario would have gone to a scheduled interview in Mexico.  (Specifically at the US Consulate in Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso.)  He would be denied at that first interview but given a letter telling him that he was eligible to apply for a waiver (called the I-601).  He would then have to file the waiver from there in Mexico, and hope that it would be approved.  But those I-601 waivers are not by any means automatic or easy to get, and so Mario was at risk of being stuck in Mexico for 10 years.

Now, however, with this new process, Sarah and Mario start out the same way.  But now, instead of completing the final step with the National Visa Center and scheduling Mario’s interview in Juarez, they apply for the waiver first, while Mario is still here with her in the US.  To do so, we use a new USCIS form, the I-601A.  Like before, if they work with us we will create a detailed submission of evidence of how Mario’s absence will result in “extreme hardship” for Sarah.  After about a 4-6 month wait, they get an answer on the I-601A waiver.  If it gets approved, now we go ahead and schedule his interview, and Mario goes to Juarez knowing that he already eliminated the requirement that he wait the 10 years outside the US.  If all goes well at his medical exam and interview (which it should since he’s never been arrested), Mario will only have to spend about 1-2 weeks total in Mexico before receiving his Permanent Resident card and returning to live with Sarah in the US.  That’s far better than the old system, where Mario would have had to spend at best a couple months in Mexico waiting for the answer on his waiver, and possibly many years more if things didn’t go well.

Of course, you may be thinking: what if Mario’s I-601A waiver, filed while he’s here in the US, doesn’t get approved?  The good news is that by all accounts, as long as the immigrant does not have a serious criminal record or a history of prior deportations, USCIS will generally not refer the case to ICE (the main immigration enforcement agency) to file deportation charges.  So even if the I-601A waiver wouldn’t get approved for Mario and Sarah, they would basically be back to where they started.

As you can see, this new I-601A waiver process offers some real advantages.  It allows families to stay together for almost the entire process of getting the spouse’s green card.   And it greatly reduces the risk that the immigrant spouse might go back to their home country, not get the waiver, and be stuck there separated from their family for many years.  However, it is a complicated process that we simplified greatly for purposes of this example.  There are lots of traps along the way, depending on the unique history of each case.  Whether you use us or someone else, we highly recommend carefully reviewing your family’s unique situation with a licensed and experienced immigration attorney before attempting this process.  A little money spent up front can save you many thousands and years of frustration in the future.

The latest on prospects for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Posted by on Nov 27, 2013 in Immigration | 0 comments

Like many of you, we have been closely watching this year as Congress grapples with immigration reform.  After the Senate passed its version of comprehensive reform this spring, many immigrant families awaiting change in our outmoded laws rejoiced, but we warned our clients and potential clients that such celebrations were premature.  The Senate, controlled by Democrats, was always going to be the easy part.  The Republican party controls the House of Representatives, and that party remains badly split on immigration issues.  Certain fringe elements of the party will simply always oppose any measures that will help immigrants, but most mainstream Republicans are willing to consider reasonable improvements to our immigration laws if they believe that their constituents back home will stand with them.

We are active members of the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association (AILA), and from the beginning of consideration by the House, AILA’s advocacy experts have made clear that enough Republican Representatives support the Senate’s relatively reasonable approach that if Speaker John Boehner would permit a simple up-or-down vote on the Senate’s bill, it would pass today in the House.  Boehner and the House Republican leadership, however, are holding out for majority support within their own party.   They have also stated their preference for numerous small bills rather than a single comprehensive reform plan.  At the moment, this has created a stalemate.  No one who has carefully observed Congress for the past few years will find that surprising.

However, there is still hope for reform.  Douglas Stump, the current President of AILA and himself an Oklahoma Republican, indicated in a speech here in Colorado last month that next spring’s primaries might be key.  Several moderate Republican Representatives indicated privately to him and other AILA advocates that they support the Senate’s generally reasonable reforms, but they fear challenges from far-right Tea Party candidates in Republican primaries.  Once they survive those primaries, most of these Republican incumbents will face little opposition winning general elections in our era’s gerrymandered, single-party-dominated Congressional districts.  Therefore, once primary season ends, enough of these Republican incumbents may feel secure enough in their jobs to support reasonable comprehensive immigration reform such as that passed by the Senate.

Senators Announce New Proposed Comprehensive Immigration Reform Law

Posted by on Apr 18, 2013 in Immigration | 3 comments

On April 16, 2013, eight U.S. Senators, known as the “Gang of Eight”, introduced a proposed new immigration law that could transform U.S. immigration law as we know it, and provide opportunities for many immigrants.

The proposed law provides that immigrants who entered the United States without permission or who remained after their permission to stay expired will have to register with the government, submit to a background check, and pay a fine and back taxes to be eligible to remain in the U.S. Such undocumented immigrants will be able to obtain a probationary legal status, which will include the ability to live and work legally in the United States.

Undocumented immigrants who have significant criminal records or who are deemed to pose a threat to national security will be ineligible to qualify for the probationary status.

Immigrants who receive probationary status will eventually be allowed to apply for lawful permanent residency (Green Card) after they pass an additional background check, pay taxes, learn English and civics, demonstrate a history of work in the United States, and current employment, although it would take several years to do so.

The proposed law also addresses severely needed reforms to employment-based immigration law, including a much-needed increase on the cap of H-1B visas for highly-skilled workers, the creation of an entry-level workers visa, and exemptions to current quotas for holders of advanced degrees in areas such as science, technology, engineering, and math.

The proposed bill also provides that it is contingent upon increased border security, meaning that certain triggers could be put in place related to securing the border before some other aspects of the proposed law kick in.

There will be much debate during the next several months over the contents of the proposed law, including whether or not it grants “amnesty” to undocumented immigrants. Amnesty has become a political hot-button that is reviled by immigration opponents, although very few really understand what an “amnesty” is. Regardless of one’s view toward immigration reform, or “amnesty” as some call it, what is undeniably certain is that this country’s current immigration system has serious problems, and we are long overdue to fix it. While this proposed new law is not likely the final version we will see, let’s hope it is a major step in the right direction to tackle the immigration issues that so desperately need to be addressed.