Updated DACA Renewal Process Expected Soon

April 14, 2014,

daca.jpgThe Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (or DACA) program has been updated by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services in the form of a change in the renewal process for the roughly half-million immigrants involved in the program. Though the changes have not yet been implemented, the update offers valuable insight into what DACA recipients have to look forward to. According to the update which was posted on the USCIS website recently, revisions to the DACA application form will be made in late spring of this year and will restrict renewal requests only to those individuals who were program recipients prior to August 15th of 2012. Additionally, those requesting renewals will only be required to turn over documentation regarding criminal history or removal proceedings that they had not already submitted.

To this point, those individuals requesting DACA from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (or ICE) have been required to submit a great deal of evidence about their background. According to the update, they will no longer be required to do so and those who make an initial filing for DACA will continue to use the application form that is currently accepted. It has been recommended by USCIS that DACA recipients file their renewal requests within 120 days of their DACA grant expiration date. They should not, however, file renewal requests any sooner than 150 days before expiration as the agency will not accept application filed that early. Automatic extensions will be considered if the renewal process incurs any unexpected delays but these will likely be limited to individuals who end up filing their requests between 150 and 120 days prior to their grant expiration.

As it stands right now, the USCIS policy on automatic extensions allows the possibility of DACA recipients seeing a lapse in deferred action. This could cause be a serious detriment to DACA recipients who file their renewal requests prior to their grant expiration dates if USCIS does not implement the automatic extension policy. Immigration advocates and other supporters have made the argument that automatic extensions should be put in place because, among other reasons, a lapse in deferred action could result in the loss of work authorization as well as put them at risk of being in the country illegally. Such ramifications put not only the individuals themselves in jeopardy but also their families, their employers, and others who might be associated with them in an official capacity.

The details of the renewal process will be finalized over the next several weeks with the updated renewal form expected to be available near the end of May of this year. USCIS is expected to be open to suggestions and opinions from immigration supporters about how to make the renewal process easier and more streamlined for recipients but the bottom line at this point is that those recipients are being kept in the loop about what is coming up in the near future and how it will affect them and their families. If you or someone you know is in need of counsel regarding this or any other immigration issue, please visit the Austin immigration attorneys at Lyttle Law Firm or call their office directly at 512-215-5225.

Accounting Changes Responsible for Obama's Tough Immigration Reputation

April 9, 2014,

daca.pngPresident Obama has been called one of the toughest recent presidents as it relates to deporting immigrants who are in the country illegally. Despite the fact that he has implemented such programs as the DACA program, which allows a significant number of younger illegal immigrants to stay in the country, Obama has nevertheless gained the moniker "deporter in chief" as a result of his administration's immigration policies. But not everyone is in agreement that such a title is warranted.

One of the primary arguments among those who would like to brand president Obama as being deportation happy, is the fact that since his taking over the presidency the rate of deportation has increased significantly. But, in a recent L.A. Times piece, it is argued that the spike in deportations does not represent a change in U.S. policy as it relates to immigrants with established lives in the country, but rather simply points to the fact that president Obama is now including the deportations of those who just made over the border in his administration's statistics - a practice which is relatively new.

Immigrants who have been living in the United States illegally for a number of years have not been subject to higher deportation rates under president Obama than they were under President Bush. In fact, deportations of those who have been living in the U.S. illegally are down over 40% since the president took office in 2009. By contrast, those who were deported after having recently crossed the border, according to the article, would not have even been counted in deportation statistics by previous administrations. It seems that the Obama allowed the counting of such immigrants early in his administration in order to boost his administration's credibility on immigration, a practice which may now be yielding the president less benefits than headaches.

Administration officials have acknowledged that those who have settled in the United States, and live here illegally but without committing any additional crimes, are highly unlikely to ever be deported. Not only is a law abiding illegal immigrant by default difficult to locate, but the years' long backlog facing Federal immigration courts serves as an almost insurmountable barrier to those looking to deport.

The United States continues to struggle with finding a lasting fair solution to its immigration issues. Whether or not president Obama deserves to be called a staunch advocate of deportation, the fact is that United States will never deport its way out of this tough problem. Only through courageous leadership among politicians, sensible and timely legislation, and a populist which is finally ready to move forward beyond this divisive, issue will the nation's immigration challenges finally be met. In the meantime, if you or someone you know requires immigration services -contact the Austin immigration attorneys at the Lyttle law firm at 512-215-5225.

Senator Asks for Tech Giants' Help with Immigration Reform

April 7, 2014,

h1b.jpgOne popular misconception regarding immigrants is that they primarily come to the United States and work in labor-intensive low-wages jobs, such as those involving construction and farm work. While it is true that many immigrants do find their way into such work conditions, many immigrants also come to the country specifically in order to work in skilled trades such as in the capacity of engineers, computer programmers, and other high tech work. Now a U.S. senator is asking for the country's high tech companies to join him in the call for comprehensive immigration reform.

High tech companies often take advantage of the H1-B visa program in order to recruit skilled workers from other countries. Recently, such tech giants as Google and Microsoft have begun to complain that the skilled worker visa program is not sophisticated or large enough to meet the needs of the country's tech sector. Now Democratic Senator Dick Durbin is calling on technology companies across the country to not only focus on the H1-B visa program, but to instead join him in a push to overhaul the nation's immigration policies from the bottom up.

In an open letter to tech executives Durbin advised the companies that they should recognize the fact that the nation's immigration woes do not just affect technology companies. Instead, the lack of a responsible immigration policy, Durbin says, affects the American people by allowing "unscrupulous employers" to import "cheap foreign labor". Durbin is essentially asking more tech executives to follow the lead of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who recently founded a website which has comprehensive immigration reform as its primary focus.

In addition to targeting executives of high-tech companies, Durbin also invited his Republican colleagues to join him in the push for comprehensive immigration reform. In particular, Durbin warned that over emphasis on the H1-B program can be detrimental to the larger goal of accomplishing true reform which would benefit millions of immigrants, as opposed to just thousands of skilled workers.

It is likely that Senator Durbin's open letter is in response to a recent initiative, hatched by the technology industry, to lobby Congress for reforms of the H1-B visa program. While major players, including big technology companies, Congress, and the President, all fight to have their way in any future immigration legislation which may come about, the average person seems to be left out. The Austin immigration attorneys at Lyttle Law Firm fight for the little guy. We have the experience and dedication needed to take on your case and help you achieve the best possible outcome. If you have a pressing immigration issue, and would like assistance, visit our website or call us now at 512-215-5225.

Big Business Lobbying Congress to Fix Vital Visa Program

April 2, 2014,

passport.jpegAn old refrain in the United States of America goes "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..."While the U.S. is certainly the land of opportunity, a modern day melting pot, many companies in the country are looking to continue recruit a diverse cross section of immigrants to come, work, and help continue to make the country prosperous. Particularly, when it comes to high-tech professionals, U.S. businesses realize that one of the keys to keeping the country competitive is the recruitment of foreign professionals who have the requisite qualifications to fill vacancies. With that in mind, a group of businesses have issued an open call to Congress to issue more visas so that they can recruit the talent they need in order to keep growing.

High tech companies such as Microsoft and Google are calling on political leaders in Washington, D.C. to come up with a plan to allow more of the high-tech professionals they need to immigrate to the country. Joining together under a lobbying group called Compete America, companies say that the U.S. immigration policy is hurting their abilities to grow, and costing the country jobs. In fact, according to an online 'Job Loss' clock Complete America published in mid-March, the U.S. loses an estimated half million jobs every year due to limits on the H1-B visa -the visa under which most high-tech immigrants enter the country.

According to the designer of the clock, economist Dr. Matthew Slaughter of the Corley and Dartmouth Tuck School of Business, when people immigrate to the U.S. under the H1-B visa the effect is felt across the entire economy. "H-1B jobs tend to create a multiplier, both for the companies that hire these workers and for the suppliers in the supply chain," Dr. Slaughter said. But everyone is not in agreement that the country needs to bring in more immigrants to fill high-tech jobs.

According to Ira Mehlman, Media Director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, some companies tend to prefer foreign workers, causing them to overlook qualified Americans who can fill the roles just as well. It is Mehlman's opinion that the companies aligned with Compete America are simply not looking hard enough at home, and that they should focus on developing the American workers who are otherwise close to what the company is searching for.

Every year the U.S. approves 85,000 H1-B visas. The fact that there is such contention surrounding the issue of increasing this number is just another piece of evidence that the nation's leaders need to finally approve a common sense immigration policy. The Austin immigration attorneys at Lyttle Law Firm know that this country's immigration laws can be tough to understand and difficult to navigate. We have the experience and care needed to help you. Contact us now at 512-215-5225 or visit our website in order to discuss your immigration issue.

Court Rules in Case of Pre-Marital Agreement vs. I-864 Duties

March 31, 2014,

09419826XSmall.pngIn modern times the prenuptial agreement has become a popular way to ensure that a prearranged financial plan will be followed in the case of divorce. Though prenuptial agreements are generally legally binding, there are situations in which the agreements may be superseded by other contracts which contain obligations that one or both of the divorcees must adhere to. In a recent case, which combined marriage law with immigration law, the courts were asked to consider just such a situation.

Before Ayla Erler married Yasher Erler on April 15, 2009, the couple signed a prenuptial agreement in which they agreed that, should they decide to divorce, both parties would walk away from the marriage retaining their individual assets. Additionally, they agreed that neither party would receive alimony. Generally, this kind of case would be relatively strait forward. But in this case, after signing the prenuptial agreement, but before marrying, Mr. Erler also signed the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Form I-864, aka "Affidavit of Support." In signing this form he indicated that he would provide the necessary support to ensure that Mrs. Erler's income never fell below 125% of the federal poverty level.

After the divorce, Mrs. Erler remained unemployed, only receiving about $200 per month in food stamps. Mr. Erler helped his ex-wife was moving expenses, but did not continue to provide her with financial support which was required to keep her overall income above the poverty level. Mrs. Erler sued her former husband, claiming that because he did not provide her with said financial support, he was in violation of his I-864 responsibilities. Lawyers for Mr. Erler claimed that the prenuptial agreement superseded the agreement which was made when he signed Form I-864. In other words, the prenuptial agreement made his financial duties under form I-864 null and void.

After hearing the reasoning from both sides, the court ruled that Mr. Erler's argument - that the prenuptial agreement had voided his duties under Form I-864 -was invalid. The court found that not only didn't the prenuptial agreement itself void the duties which were accepted upon signing Form I-864, but that the granting of the divorce also was insufficient to avoid those duties. Next the court had to consider whether Mrs. Erler's income had superseded 125% of the federal poverty level.

After separating from Mr. Erler, Mrs. Erler lived with her adult son, who earned over $3000 per month income. Mr. Erler claimed that she lived in a two person household which, when taking both people into account, was well above the federal poverty level. Mrs. Erler contended that since she had qualified for federal food stamps as a single person, she could not be considered part of a two person household for purposes of the trial. At issue was the fact that Congress and immigration authorities each used a slightly different definition for household and how to calculate the number of people in a household. In the end, the court ruled that's the plaintiff and her son constitute a two person household, and that the income of their household exceeds 125% of the federal poverty level. So, while Mr. Erler's duties remained, the conditions to enforce the duties had not been met.

Our Austin immigration attorneys are experienced in handling all manner of immigration law. Whether it's a matter of marriage and divorce, as we have seen in this case, or any other immigration related legal situation, you can count on the Lyttle Law Firm to assist you. Call us today at 512-215-5225, or visit our website.

Youths Cross Border From Mexico To U.S. As Part Of New Wave Of Protests

March 26, 2014,

border.jpgAs the immigration situation in the United States continues without real steps toward a resolution, an increasing number of activists are staging various kinds of protests in order to draw more attention to the plight of illegal immigrants. Some of the demonstrations are large, such as the march on Washington last year, while others are smaller, but none the less symbolic. One recent protest demonstration, conducted by a group of youth activists, involved crossing the border from Mexico to the U.S. in order to show symbolic solidarity with undocumented immigrants, but this time there was a twist.

A group of immigration activists staged a protest of sorts on March 18th, when they walked in unison, chanting along the way, to the U.S. border crossing in San Diego called Otay Mesa. The immigrants crossed the Mexican border and came into the United States during the march, and then surrendered themselves to the border personnel while asking to be granted asylum. Among the protesters were several youths who had been rounded up in the U.S. and sent back to Mexico before the passage of the DREAM Act. Under this act, many of the youth protesters would have been allowed to stay in the U.S. if it had been enacted before their deportations.

According to the marchers, the protest, which was captured on video and broadcast on internet website U Stream, was meant make the statement that "no human is illegal." As the marchers crossed the border into the waiting arms of border personnel, many of the protesters proclaimed the names of the cities and states where they hoped to reside. One person said "Phoenix," while another proclaimed "Tucson," among other locations in the U.S.

This protest is not the only of its kind. There are more, similar protests scheduled, as part of a protest campaign organized by the National Immigrant Youth Alliance. The basis of the group's claim is that living in Mexico can be dangerous, especially for those who have alternative lifestyles - such as gay and lesbian youths. Many of the protesters insist that they have been the targets of threats and violence in Mexico as a result of their sexual orientations.

Until the U.S. Congress and the President come to a reasonable solution for the nation's immigrations woes, these kinds of protests are likely to continue. It is interesting to note that many of the protesters would have been allowed to stay in the U.S., if only they had stayed in the country long enough to see the passage of the DREAM Act. But, until those in Washington give the country a sensible immigration policy, immigrants across the country will continue to be left in limbo.

For years we at the Lyttle Law Firm have worked on behalf of the U.S. immigrant population. We have helped thousands of individuals and families with all manner of immigration related issues. We are experienced in working with even the most difficult immigration cases. If you or someone you know, need assistance with immigration related issue, call the Austin, Texas immigration attorneys at the Lyttle Law Firm at 512-215-5225.

How Does the U.S. Adjudicate an I-601A - Unlawful Presence Waiver Application?

March 24, 2014,

greencard.jpgThose who are immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen, such as the parent, child, or spouse, can apply for an I-601A - Unlawful Presence Waiver, provided certain criteria are met. One of these criteria is that the U.S. citizen must be living in the United States at the time of the application's filing. Additionally, the applicant must meet all of the I-601A eligibility requirements in order to merit a "favorable exercise of discretion" by the USCIS. While these requirements are generally well clarified, there have been some questions regarding whether or not the applicant will be disqualified as a result of having a criminal record.

In addressing the question of what kinds of criminal offenses will disqualify an applicant from being granted a an I-601A, the USCIS has indicted that crimes which are considered petty offenses or which qualify for the youth offender exception will not disqualify the applicant from being granted the waiver. However, any past criminal activity must not be considered a crime involving moral turpitude.

As a result of this finding, the USCIS plans to reopen all I-601A unlawful presence waivers which were denied before January 24, 2014,if the denial was solely due to the applicant's criminal history. The USCIS will re-adjudicate such cases based on the finding referenced above. According to a USCIS statement on the matter, those affected will be notified within 60 days. However, it should be noted that the re-adjudication is essentially a review in light of new guidance, not a guarantee that they application will be approved.

As can be seen by the above situation, immigrating to the United States can be lengthy and difficult. Those who wish to have the best opportunity for success are advised to use the services of a qualified immigration attorney to assist them along the way. We, at the Lyttle Law Firm, do all we can to help our clients, immigrants in Austin, Texas, to navigate this country's immigration system. If you have an immigration question, call us at 512-215-5225 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. We are here to help you.

Citizenship Status Available to Family Members of U.S. Military Servicemen

March 19, 2014,

marine.jpgThe issue of immigration is one of the most prominent hot-button topics is the United States today but ironically it is also one of the slowest to move through Congress. Despite the stagnancy of immigration reform in this country, the Obama administration recently purported to offer legal status to illegal immigrants who have relatives serving in the United States military. Such status would not only include citizenship but would also provide these individuals with military benefits as well. The policy involves the parents, spouses, and children of military reservists, veterans, and of course those in active duty and, according to supporters, it is one that should have been implemented years ago.

The benefits to the servicemen and women and their families to whom this policy applies are fairly obvious. The family members receive United States citizenship and their military kin receive the peace of mind that comes from knowing that their loved ones are not at risk of being deported. Those opposed to the policy, however, claim that there will now be an entire "class of aliens" that have no legal right to take up residence in the U.S. living and working in the country solely because the happen to be related to a member of the military.

The controversy attached to this new policy involves the fact that it was never submitted for Congressional approval and hence it was never published in the Federal Register. The Register is in place to make the public aware of changes and addendums to federal policies and to give an opportunity for public discourse on the issue. The fact that these steps were not taken in regard to this particular measure gives many opponents the impression that the policy was implemented illegally. But supporters point to the fact that the policy is based on existing statutes and as such it falls within the president's authority to give the go-ahead without Congressional approval or public insight.

From the standpoint of the military servicemen and women themselves to whom the policy applies, there is the sense that those who criticize and oppose it do so because they do not have the proper perspective. Many believe that their family members are simply seen as illegal aliens who are being given a free ride in a country where they were not born and in which they do not belong. They believe, however, that they should be seen as the spouse, parent, sibling, or child of a United States military serviceman instead.

Citizenship for these individuals carries with it entitlement to healthcare, education, and survivor benefits as well as a social security number, a driver's license, and other government identification documents ordinarily reserved for those born on United States soil. There is a sense of self-worth that has been kept from the family members of these military members and that say supporters can finally be restored. It is beneficial not only to the families involved but to the communities in which they live as well.

Immigration issues are continuing to plague the United States as politicians continue to bicker over reforming the present system. In the meantime, people's lives are being affected. If you or someone you know needs help with an immigration issue of any kind, please contact the Austin, Texas immigration attorneys at the Lyttle Law Firm by vising the website or calling 512.25.5225.

The Battle for Immigrant Law Grads to Obtain State Licensing in the U.S. Continues

March 17, 2014,

scales.jpgBecoming a lawyer requires a tremendous amount of hard work and commitment and upon successful completion of and graduation from law school and a passing score on the bar exam, the dream can become a reality. The only other requirement according to United States immigration law is that the person aspiring to be an attorney is to be a citizen of the country. If you are an undocumented immigrant then you may have an uphill battle in front of you. There have been three court cases in the last few years that have brought this issue to the forefront of the American collective conscience and in most people's opinion they have done little more than make a confusing issue even more so for undocumented immigrants.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled last week that Jose Godinez-Samperio is now allowed to practice law in Florida despite the fact that he graduated from law school, passed the bar, and that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program authorizes him to work in the United States. Prior to that decision, the California Supreme Court ruled in January that Sergio Garcia, another undocumented immigrant who has been living in the United States since he was 17 months old, is allowed to practice law in the state despite his status.

So what accounts for the discrepancy in the outcomes of two nearly identical court cases? Practicing law in a given state requires a license to do so that is granted by the state court. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996 holds that undocumented immigrants are to be denied taxpayer funded state public benefits. One of these benefits is a state issued law license. However, state law can trump this federal law if the state in question passes its own law in opposition to it. In October of 2013, the state of California enacted such a law while the state of Florida has done no such thing.

Another relevant case involves Cesar Vargas, another undocumented immigrant who has lived in the United States since he was five years old and who graduated from law school and interned for a State Supreme Court judge. He has yet to gain admission to the bar in New York, however, because like Florida, the state of New York has yet to pass legislation that overrides the 1996 federal law. Until Congress pushes immigration reform through, these kinds of cases will become more and more common. There were nearly one million individuals eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals when the initiative was implemented in 2012 and over the years as these individuals reach working age it is expected that they will be met with resistance by other federal immigration policies that prohibit undocumented immigrants from working.

While other states have made some menial progress in their respective immigration policies such as the allowance of undocumented individuals to obtain a driver's license, California is currently the only state that allows these individuals to practice law. If you or someone you know would like more information or to obtain legal counsel regarding this or any other immigration issue, please visit the Austin immigration legal team at Lyttle Law Firm by vising our website or calling 512.215.5225.

Venezuelans Arrive In South Florida After Fleeing Dangerous Situation At Home

March 12, 2014,

val.jpgMiddle-class Venezuelan immigrants are hitting the shores of South Florida increased numbers recently, just as they did when the late socialist President Hugo Chavez came to power in 1999. The only difference this time is that the vast majority of them are coming to the United States with far less financial abundance than they did 15 years ago. It is no longer the upper class citizens of Venezuela who are coming to America but the middle class, and they are bringing far less with them, many with little more than the clothes on their backs. Immigration attorneys in Miami have reported being inundated with requests for consultation from the city's Venezuelan community regarding obtaining political asylum or information about alternatives for getting their family members out of Venezuela.

Whereas before many would come to the U.S. to study or work in order to save money and then return to Venezuela, the trend now is to come here to stay. Those who wanted to maintain their upper class lifestyle were far less willing to accept modest living accommodations or to rely on public transportation. Nowadays, however, more and more Venezuelans are taking whatever they can get. Inflation, food shortages, and government oppression are just some of the reasons people in Venezuela simply want to get out and are far less particular about what the United States has to offer or what they are able to bring with them when they come.

The economic discrepancy between those who fled Venezuela 15 years ago and those who have been doing so over the last several months is significant. Most of those who immigrated to Miami came with substantial savings but now they are selling everything they have and using what little money they make from that to start a new life in the United States. The percentage of Venezuelans home buyers in the greater Miami area over the last three years has dropped by fully fifty percent.

One family in particular, the Salamancas, was relatively prominent in their home city of Villa del Rosario where they ran a successful business and worked at a school. However, after Hugo Chavez began implementing his policies throughout the country, the family formally switched their political party affiliation in opposition to Chavez. That is when they began receiving threats over the phone several times every day. They decided to use the tourist visas they had obtained for the members of their family in 2013 and sell their belongings and come to the U.S. in search of freedom from their oppressors.

Upon their arrival they purchased a used car in poor condition and spent $2,400 on the deposit and first month's rent for an apartment. But it wasn't long before they found they could no longer afford the apartment and having only tourist visas they were unable to obtain employment and began sleeping in their car.

Situations like that of the Salamancas are becoming increasingly common in post-Chavez Venezuela and it seems as though it will only get worse before it gets better. If you or someone you know is interested in getting information about asylum or would like more information about our services please visit the website of the Austin immigration attorneys at the Lyttle Law Firm or call their offices in Austin, Texas at 512-215-5225.

Naturalization Residence Preservation With The N-470

March 10, 2014,

0-Two_U.S._Passports.pngMany people who live in the United States as green card holders wonder if they can leave the country for an extended period of time and return to the U.S. without their absence affecting their residency status. Immigration law in the United States defines residency as the applicant's primary "dwelling place in fact without regard to intent." In other words, it is the actual location that the applicant resides within at a given point in time as opposed to where he or she is looking to reside.
Some residents find that they need to live outside of the United States for longer than one year in order to perform work duties for jobs in areas such as government, international businesses, or for religious organizations. These situations require the resident to file an N-470 application in order to maintain their residency status in the U.S. The N-470 Application to Preserve Residence for

Naturalization Purposes allows a resident, upon approval, to maintain residency status despite living outside the U.S. for more than one year. Residents who have been granted residency for the purpose of naturalization are required to file the N-470 form prior to leaving the country unless he or she is doing so for a religious organization. In such cases, the resident is allowed to submit the application either before or after they leave the country and in many cases even after they return to the United States.

Form N-470 can be filed from outside the U.S. but it does have to be filed before the resident has been living outside the country for one continuous year. Whether the form is filed within the United States or outside the country, however, reentry permits must be applied for prior to leaving. Residents must also be physically present for naturalization per the naturalization policy. Once the reentry permit is obtained the resident can stay outside the United States for as long as two years and still maintain residency status.

In terms of continuous residence, applicants who have been married to and living with a U.S. citizen for at least 3 years are required to have held residency status for a minimum of 3 years themselves. The naturalization policy dictates that an applicant is allowed to file a naturalization application as little as 3 months before they are about to meet the 3 year requirement for continuous residency.

The N-470 form is critical to those residents who are looking to maintain their status as being absent from the U.S. for more than one continuous year will disrupt that status unless the form has been filed and approved. If continuous residency is broken as the result of the resident living outside the United States for more than one continuous year without filing the N-470 form and gaining approval, he or she will be required to wait 4 years and 1 day following the date they return to the U.S. in order to regain their status as a permanent resident.

Lyttle Law Firm and its dedicated team of experienced attorneys have helped countless permanent residents maintain their status and achieve citizenship despite extended periods of time spent outside the United States. If you or someone you know is interested in filing the N-470 form or would like more information about our services please visit the Austin immigration attorneys at Lyttle Law Firm on their website or call their offices in Austin, Texas at 512-215-5225.

Comatose Exchange Student Faces Deportation

March 5, 2014,

comatose-student.jpgShahzaib Bajwa is a 20-year-old exchange student who came to the United States from Pakistan last year and was enrolled in a one-semester program at a university in Wisconsin. It sounds like a fairly typical foreign exchange student situation until you learn that Shahzaib is currently in a coma at a Minnesota hospital and is facing deportation next week when his visa expires. In the event that his visa is not renewed in time, the hospital will be forced to discharge him and he will be sent back to Pakistan with his family, who will be obligated to pay the medical bills that continue to accrue daily as a result of his condition. The issue has drawn attention from the U.S. State Department as Shahzaib's immigration status is already something of an anomaly, and undoubtedly has immigration attorneys and other experts interested.

According to his brother, Shahzaib's family is being asked to give legal consent to send him back to Pakistan in his current condition. They are in the United States on visitor's visas but they understand that time is not very well on their side. He has shown signs of improvement and has briefly opened his eyes, wiggled his toes, and given his mother's hand a light squeeze, but these indicators have been sparse and inconsistent. And while he still does not have any speaking ability, neurological tests indicate that he may in fact be coming out of the coma.

Nevertheless, medical expenses for Shahzaib since his car accident in November, which caused his condition, have crossed the $350,000 mark and are mounting daily. His travel insurance plan is capped at $100,000 and his family does not have the money to pay the bills that are being incurred. The Bajwa family has requested that the hospital switch his student visa to a medical visa but according to family members their initial cooperation in that endeavor has given way to an ongoing attempt to have him discharged and sent back to Pakistan. State Department officials deny that they refused to extend Shahzaib's student visa and claim that they are working closely with the hospital, with the student program sponsors, and with the Bajwa family to come to the best possible solution for the family. But the Bajwa family itself and their attorneys don't feel as though the State Department is being helpful, and are doubtful that they would be willing to extend Shahzaib's student visa.

As unique as it may seem on the surface, the situation is not as uncommon as some might assume. Advocacy groups released a study in 2012 that revealed that there have been a number of incidents in the last several years in which some hospitals have discharged immigrants who were hospitalized, and even comatose, and had them deported without the knowledge or consent of the State Department. According to the study, there were over 800 cases over the course of six years in which immigrants were returned to their home country without consent because they were unable to pay their hospital bills. Some experts claim that there is simply a general lack of oversight on the part of the federal government and the applicable agencies therein to monitor these kinds of situations and help to ensure that immigrants who are suffering from serious illness are not sent home until they are well.

If you or someone you know needs help with a situation similar to Shahzaib's or any other immigration issue, please visit the Lyttle Law Firm website or call their offices in Austin, Texas at 512-215-5225.

Why It Is Important To Notify Immigration If You Forgot To Return Your I-94

March 3, 2014,

immigration.gifThe I-94 is an Arrival/Departure record which is issued by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Agency. The I-94 may be in either paper or electronic format, but has been mostly generated in electronic format since April 30, 2013 for passengers who travel by air and sea. The I-94 is generated by a CBP officer when a foreign visitor enters the United States, and when issued in electronic format the I-94 is entered as an annotated stamp in the foreign person's passport. Those who travel to the U.S. by land generally continue to receive a paper I-94. Those who return home by land must turn in their I-94 as they leave the U.S. Failure to do so could present problems with verifying that the person did, in fact, leave the U.S. on time.

Those who forget, or otherwise fail to, turn in their I-94 when they depart the United States may be designated as having "overstayed," their visas. This is because aside from the return of the I-94, the CBP has no other independent way to verify that the person actually left the U.S. on time. This is in contrast to those with an electronic I-94, which can be independently verified. For those who did not return their paper I-94 when they left the U.S., a designation of overstay could hurt their chances to reenter the U.S. at a later date, as penalties for the misunderstanding can include visa cancellation.

Those who entered the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) have additional incentive to notify CBP if they did not return their I-94 when they left the country. This is because under the VWP program those who overstayed will not be permitted to reenter the U.S. This could result in a person being denied at a port of entry.

If you retained your I-94 forms after leaving the United States, you should immediately send your original I-94, along with documentation supporting your departure dates, to;

1084 South Laurel Road
London, KY 40744

This information should only be sent to the above address, not to another CBP office or a U.S. consulate or embassy. Additionally, please be advised that the above location does not respond to questions or concerns. The following information can be used to help verify your departure date:

  • Original airline boarding passes which were used to fly home from another country, such as Canada.

  • Photocopy of all pages in passport which are not blank. Should show that you entered into another country after departing from the U.S.

  • Personal documentation which documents you were in another country before your visa expiration such as:

    1. Dated pay stubs which showed you worked in another country before visa expiration date

    2. Dated bank records showing in-person transactions in another country before visa expiration date

    3. Dated credit card records with showing your name but not your account information, which shows in-person transactions in another country before visa expiration date

    4. School records showing you attended class in another country before visa expiration date

Attached to the supporting documentation above, you should provide a letter explaining your situation, written in English. This letter is mandatory and the above supporting information cannot be processed without it. Please note that in the case original copies are mailed, they will not be returned. For this reason it is best to mail legible copies when possible. Additionally, it is highly recommended that you bring this supporting documentation along with you the next time your visit the United States.

The Austin immigration attorneys at Lyttle Law Firm are here to help you will all your immigration needs. Please give us a call at 512-215-5225 or visit us on our website.

While Millions of Immigrants Wait to get In - Some Americans Line Up to get Out

February 26, 2014,

how-to-become-u-s-citizen.jpgWhile there are millions of people all over the world waiting for their chance to gain U.S. citizenship and residency, a small minority of Americans are taking the opposite track and renouncing their U.S. citizenships. While there have always been Americans who have renounced their U.S. citizenships - about 1000 per year average over the past 5 years - 2013 saw an explosion of citizenship renunciations as over 3000 people reportedly gave up their U.S. citizenships in that year alone.

While some may think that those giving up their citizenships may be motivated by ideology or wanting to move to another country in order to be with a loved one, the statistics say that the number one reason people are giving up their citizenships is in order to avoid U.S. taxes. Many of those giving up their U.S. citizenship in order to avoid U.S. taxes already live outside the country. But the Unites States requires its citizens to file tax returns, even when income earned was not earned in the country. This means that many citizens living aboard must file two tax returns, one for the country in which they live, and another for Uncle Sam. This double tax filing requirement can make an already complicated tax filing situation doubly so, and has driven many people to seek to check out of being an American altogether.

Another factor in the renunciations is the fact that several components of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act of 2010 are causing Americans to have to seek expert advice with respect to their taxes, due to the law's complexity. Hiring an expert is not just a hassle, but can also be expensive. Nevertheless, many expats are finding that the law's reporting requirements are too arcane to be deciphered by a layman. For example one provision indicates that Americans must report foreign assets worth $50,000 or more. Another provision says that U.S. citizens must report foreign bank account holdings of $10,000 or more. A provision which will require financial institutions to report any foreign accounts held by Americans is also set to go into effect. Given the number of reporting requirements and the headaches that many expats face when filing taxes, it seems that a number of them are giving up their citizenships out of protest as much as principle.

The Lyttle Law Firm is an immigration law firm based in Austin, Texas. If you have any questions or issues concerning immigration, please contact us immediately at 512-215-5225.

How Deferred Action Recipients can Apply for a Social Security Number

February 24, 2014,

hands-with-american-flag.jpgOn June 15, 2012 President Barack Obama instituted a program called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The DACA essentially removes much of the threat of deportation from law abiding people who arrived in the United States illegally before their 16th birthdays, and otherwise qualify for the program. The purpose of the program is to allow people, who were essentially forced to illegally immigrate to the U.S. as children, a chance to apply to stay in the United States and even earn the right to work in the country. There are many unanswered questions relating to the legal status of Deferred Action recipients; one of which has been whether or not they will be eligible for a social security number. The Social Security Administration has issued guidance which will help clarify the situation.

The Social Security Administration has issued documentation indicating that those who qualify for the Deferred Action program will be eligible to receive a social security number as long as certain criteria are met. These criteria include:

  • You must have USCIS granted Deferred Action status
  • You must have USCIS granted employment authorization
  • You must visit a social security office in person and sign the social security number application
  • You must bring the USCIS I-766 (Employment Authorization Card) with you to the social security office
  • You must show proof age and identity. Only documents which are originals or certified copies will be accepted. Photocopies will not be accepted. Documents which show your age and identity include:
    1. Foreign birth certificate or passport
    2. U.S. military ID or U.S. military record
    3. U.S. issued driver's license or other official ID card
    4. School record or ID card showing age or birthdate
    5. Religious record showing age or date of birth
    6. Copy of medical records

It should be reiterated that a social security number will only be issued to those who have already been approved by the USCIS for the Deferred Action program and given work authorization.

The Deferred Action program is an exciting development which is helping millions of immigrants normalize their lives in the Unites States. Though the program does not offer a permanent or comprehensive solution to the nation's immigration issues, it is a step which will at least remove some of the pressure from those who were illegally brought to the United States as children.

If you or anyone you know is interested in learning more about this or other immigration issues, the Austin immigration attorneys at Lyttle Law firm are here to help. Visit us on our website, and then give us a call at 512-215-5225.