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ImmigrationlibertyAs part of New York State’s NaturalizeNY immigration program, the government announced that it is footing all application fees for around 2,000 low-income immigrants seeking U.S. citizenship, with the winners to be chosen by a randomized lottery.

The lottery is part of an effort to assist poor immigrants unable to pay the $680 application fee for citizenship, and is open to 160,000 immigrants in New York with low incomes, but not low enough to qualify for federal assistance. Individuals with annual incomes between $30,240 and $60,480 are eligible for the lottery.

New York Government Andrew Cuomo announced the lottery would be a collaborative effort of the NaturalizeNY program and several civic groups, charities, and other nonprofits. According to New York Secretary of State Rosado, the application fee, which will reportedly go up to $725 soon, presents a major financial challenge to many immigrants struggling to make ends meet, let alone pay for an application with no guarantees of success. She added that while citizenship is an obstacle, it shouldn’t be a luxury.

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pen-428305_640A group of refugees from the Caribbean, as well as Central and South America has filed a class action lawsuit against the United States for allegedly denying asylum-seekers due process, for intentionally failing to inform them of the deadline for filing the necessary paperwork for asylum, and for placing roadblocks to stifle the immigration process.

After being caught at the border, the four plaintiffs were released into the United States and allowed to apply for asylum. However, they did not receive any instructions from immigration agents to file for asylum within the allowable grace period of 1 year after entering the country, nor did they present a feasible way to meet the deadline.

In their complaint, the plaintiffs claim that their ability to pursue asylum was stifled by a government process that is hardly fair, but rather goes against the basic tenets of due process, that is, providing notice and the opportunity to be heard.

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immigration kidIn a ruling earlier this week, a federal appeals court ordered the Department of Homeland Security to immediately release undocumented immigrant children held under detention for crossing the border unlawfully. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that detaining migrant children for extended periods violates a 19-year-old legal settlement, which ordered immediate release after processing. Government lawyers responded by arguing that the settlement applied only to immigrant children who had crossed into the United States without being accompanied by adult relatives.

However, the ruling also states that immigration officials are not required to release migrant parents detained with their children, a reversal of an earlier ruling by U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee.

Advocates of tighter immigration policies hailed the decision, and hoped it would discourage adults from crossing into the country unlawfully and using their children to avoid being detained. Mark Krikorian, Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies, and a staunch proponent of stricter border controls, believes that allowing parents to escape custody may have encouraged a wave of migrant adults to enter the U.S. with their children. With the ruling, he hopes it makes using children a “less attractive” option.

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shutterstock_140867215SThe First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Thomas v. Lynch this week, denying an appeal to recognize the plaintiff’s (Thomas) petition for derivative citizenship after being found removable from the country by an immigration court for committing a felony.

Pierre Thomas was born in Haiti and lawfully admitted to the United States in 1986 as a nonimmigrant visitor at the age of 5 years old. Together with his parents, their visitor visas were supposedly valid for only six months, but his parents decided to remain in the country. Thomas’s father passed away in 1993, and his mother eventually became a naturalized citizen on May 18, 1999, after living in the country with her son for years. Three days after his mother acquired citizenship, Thomas turned 18 years old. He did not apply to obtain legal permanent resident status within that period or at any other time thereafter, and continued to reside in the U.S. without lawful admission.

In 2003, Thomas was convicted in a Massachusetts state court for armed robbery charges. In 2012, the United States began deportation proceedings against him under Section 237(a)(2)(A)(iii) of the INA 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii), which states, “any alien who is convicted of an aggravated felony at any time after admission is deportable.”

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A judge has given the go signal to a class-action lawsuit filed to stop an existing immigration policy that denies attorney rights to immigrant children in the Western United States facing deportation. Furthermore, the judge bolstered the case by sweeping in thousands of new plaintiffs.

On Friday, July 24, U.S. District Judge Thomas Zilly on Friday acknowledged a new class in the lawsuit filed by immigration-rights groups in 2014, which could affect the present situation of thousands of immigrant children awaiting deportation proceedings. Judge Zilly extended the qualifications of the lawsuit to include all immigrant children under 18 living in the 9th Judicial Circuit who are facing removal hearings after June 24.

The lawsuit also extends to children who are not represented by an attorney or don’t have the resources to get one, as well as those who may qualify for asylum and deportation relief under the statutes of the UN Convention Against Torture (CAT). CAT prohibits countries from sending back migrants to their home countries if there is any reason to believe that they may be under threat of torture or death.

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Business TravelIn an effort to promote trade and economic growth between the United States and countries it shares treaties with, the Department of Homeland Security, through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), allows certain businesspeople from abroad to enter the country as investors through the E-2 Visa, also known as the Treaty Investor Visa. The E-2 visa essentially lets these individuals stay and work in the US for the business they invested in, or own outright.

Features and Benefits of the E-2 Visa

Features and factors to consider when applying for an E-2 visa include:

  • Treaty investors can qualify for an E-2 visa by either opening a new enterprise, or purchasing an existing enterprise.
  • Visas are valid for up to 5 years and can be subject to unlimited extensions.
  • The length of visa validity depends on the “reciprocity” agreement between the U.S. and the investor’s country of origin.
  • Visa length will also depend on the nature of the investor’s enterprise and employment. For example, new companies may lead to a shorter visa validity length.
  • Spouses of E-2 visa holders can also apply for work permits in the United States. Children, however, cannot.
  • Children (minors) of E-2 visa holders have the option of acquiring permanent resident status in the U.S.

The E-2 visa is popular with overseas investors due to the relatively simple application process, the possibility of seeking self-employment, and the attractive benefit of being able to seek as many extensions as visa holders want.

It’s for these reasons that many people refer to the E-2 visa, as well as the E-1 visa, as the next best thing to a green card. In addition, the USCIS doesn’t limit the number of E-2 visas issued to qualified applicants.

Countries That Are Recognized Under the Visa Program

E-2 visas are open to nationals from any country with which the United States maintains trade and navigation treaties.

See the full list of treaty countries below:

Albania Egypt Macedonia (FRY) Thailand
Argentina Estonia Mexico Togo
Armenia Ethiopia Moldova Trinidad & Tobago
Australia Finland Mongolia Tunisia
Austria France Montenegro Turkey
Azerbaijan Georgia Morocco Ukraine
Bahrain Germany Netherlands United Kingdom
Bangladesh Greece Norway Yugoslavia
Belgium Grenada Oman
Bolivia Honduras Pakistan
Bosnia and Herzegovina Iran Panama
Brunei Ireland Paraguay
Bulgaria Israel Philippines
Cameroon Italy Poland
Canada Jamaica Romania
Chile Japan Serbia
China (Taiwan) Jordan Senegal
Colombia Kazakhstan Singapore
Congo (Brazzaville) Korea (South) Slovak Republic
Congo (Kinshasa) Kosovo Slovenia
Costa Rica Kyrgyzstan Spain
Croatia Latvia Sri Lanka
Czech Republic Liberia Suriname
Denmark Lithuania Sweden
Ecuador Luxembourg Switzerland

* Certain conditions and restrictions may apply between certain countries and the U.S.

Requirements for the E-2 Visa Program

The E-2 visa program features the following requirements:

  1. Nationality and Role in the Enterprise
  • Only investors from countries with active treaties with the U.S. can apply for an E-2 visa.
  • Applicants must either own the business stated in their application, or share 50 percent ownership with other investors from the same country of their origin.
  • Applicants can work only for the company in the U.S. that sponsored their investor visa. Moreover, they must occupy a key position in the organization (e.g. as an executive, manager, or supervisor) they intend to work for.
  1. Substantiality
  • The applicant must make a substantial investment in a commercial enterprise in the United States. Although there isn’t a legal minimum amount, the investment needs to be sufficient to serve as capital for running the enterprise successfully.
  • The USCIS will use an ‘Inverted Sliding Scale’ to determine the viability of the investment against the total cost of buying and operating the enterprise.
  • The investment should be large enough to prove the investor’s commitment to the enterprise’s commercial success and account for its possible failure.
  • Notably, the percentage of investment for low-cost enterprises should be higher than the percentage of investment for high-cost enterprises.
  1. Nature of the Business
  • The applicant must invest in a U.S. company engaged in commercial activity that meets all state and federal requirements for doing business.
  • Applicants should invest in real operating enterprises that seek to make profits.
  • Idle or speculative investments are not considered under the E-2 visa program.
  • Likewise, funds parked in a bank account or security fund are not considered an investment.

Differences Between E-2 and EB-5

E-2 treaty investor visas, however, shouldn’t be confused with an EB-5 Investment Based Green Card, which lets immigrants apply for permanent resident status by investing in the U.S. economy.

The E-2 visa is temporary and lasts up to 5 years, during which time the visa holder can move freely in and out of the U.S. In addition, green cards through investment require a capital investment amount of at least $500,000, while E-2 visas have no required dollar minimum.

Contact Lyttle Law Firm to Schedule a Consultation

Call the offices of the Lyttle Law Firm today to learn more about the E-2 visa program. Contact us at (512) 215.5225 for a discussion on how we can help you with your immigration goals.

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shutterstock_50000521If there’s one thing the recent Brexit vote shows, it’s that minor signs of civil unrest can quickly escalate into something serious in a very short period of time. Just a year ago, hardly anyone took Briton complaints about the European Union seriously, with government officials chalking up the discontent to ignorance of economic policies, as well as racism and xenophobia in the midst of immigration tensions. At the time, it seemed these murmurings came from the minority.

But as last week’s referendum shows, a narrow majority of Britons voted against EU membership, forcing a departure from the league of nations that account for nearly half of Britain’s export revenue. On June 24, voters opted to leave the EU, despite repeated warnings from economists, allied nations, and Prime Minister David Cameron, who in the wake of the Brexit vote, announced his resignation as PM.

The results were nearly instantaneous. The British Pound crashed to a 30-year low against the U.S. Dollar, and economists forecast darker days ahead as the country moves into a recession. Trade obstacles now in place against fellow European countries have a high likelihood of leading to a less fluid economy, which in turn, may result in higher unemployment, lower tax collections, and quite possibly, extra austerity.

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shutterstock_85839559SAfter voting 4-4 in one of the most polarizing immigration cases in recent history, the Supreme Court’s failure to provide a decisive ruling on United States v. Texas means an earlier lower court decision blocking the implementation of the Obama administration’s  deferred action initiatives on immigrants still stands.

The deadlock decision upholds a Texas court injunction against Obama’s 2014 executive action, a decision further upheld by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The High Court ruling also prevents the expansion of an even earlier program that protects immigrants brought to the United States as children from being deported.

The split decision reflects the divide in Congress and the rest of the nation over the issue of immigration. Democrat lawmakers, including Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton, expressed dismay over the ruling and its damaging effects on immigrant families, while Republicans praised the decision as a preservation of government’s separation of powers.

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shutterstock_114277594SGOP lawmakers in North Carolina are looking to control local governments with threats of blocked funding if they continue to skirt immigration laws passed in 2015. A Senate Judiciary Committee recently green-lit a bill allowing the withholding of state funds to cities and counties that continue to accept ID cards issued by nonprofit groups to undocumented immigrants, or support rules that act as “sanctuary city policies” and impede the enforcement of federal immigration laws.

If approved into law, Senate Bill 868 would effectively force law enforcement officials to ignore FaithAction IDs, which police in certain cities use to identify immigrants without documentation. According to the bill’s co-sponsor, Sen. Norman Sanderson, R-Pamlico, he hopes the threat of a penalty or loss will get people’s attention and rein them in.

North Carolina had earlier banned the nonprofit-issued ID cards, but allowed an exemption for law enforcement officials who needed them to identify the identity and residency of individuals with no legal documentation. However, another bill effectively removing that exemption was introduced this month, which drew objections from sheriffs in the state.

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shutterstock_108217214SThe Supreme Court announced that it would review an injunction that offers bond hearings to detained immigrants held by immigration authorities for indefinite periods. The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California called out immigration agencies in 2010 for holding noncitizens indefinitely after apprehending them at the border, or after finding them eligible for deportation due to their criminal histories.

Alejandro Rodriguez, the lead plaintiff, first crossed into the United States as a baby and has since acquired legal permanent resident status, along with his parents, siblings, and three children. In 2013, however, he was convicted for drug possession and ordered removed from the country, but was first detained for over 3 years.

The ACLU alleges that such a detention without the review of a “neutral arbiter” is unconstitutional. In 2013, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld an injunction requiring the federal government to identify all detainees held under the challenged rules and to provide them with a bond hearing before an immigration judge who can decide their continued detention or release.