Green Card Lottery

The green card lottery was established under the INA wherein persons from under represented countries may apply for a green card visa to the US using a random drawing each year. If eligible the applicant and the spouse and any dependent children may be given a visa at the same time.

 

The Diversity Immigrant Visa program is a lottery program for receiving a US green card. It is also known as the Green Card Lottery.

Popularly known as the green card lottery, approximately 50,000 – 55,000 visas are issued annually under this lottery program. The lottery is administered on an annual basis by the Department of State and conducted under the terms of Section 203(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Section 131 of the Immigration Act of 1990 amended INA 203 to provide for a new class of immigrants known as “diversity immigrants.”

Applications are accepted during a one month application period each year, generally in October. Although many people do file the application for the Diversity Lottery without legal assistance, millions of applications are rejected with no notice to the applicant and are not included in the drawing. The reason being because of minor technical mistakes in the application or filing. There is no filing fee payable to the US government and the application and the filing is relatively straight forward, provided that the applicant understands the rules.

Many people prefer to hire an immigration lawyer to assist in filing their applications because the cost of doing so is relatively low and the process is fairly straightaway when professional advice is sought. As mentioned before the primary cause for rejection is technical errors in application or filing. If one is selected for the green card lottery, the spouse and minor children will generally be given Permanent Residence at the same time. The principal factor limiting eligibility is that the applicant must have at least completed high school education or its equivalent.

Which Visa’s for me — the K1 or K3?

U.S. citizens looking to bring their partner into the country on a K Visa must decide whether to apply for the K1 or the K3 Visa. The answer to this will depend on the particulars of each case, but knowledge of the differences between the K1 and K3 will be helpful for unsure applicants.

 

U.S. citizens looking to bring their partner into the country on a K Visa must decide whether to apply for the K1 or the K3 Visa.

The answer to this will depend on the particulars of each case, but knowledge of the differences between the K1 and K3 will be helpful for unsure applicants.

First, let’s give the K1 and the K3 some names that are a little less legal-sounding and a little more descriptive. The K1 Visa can better be called the “Fiance(e) Visa,” and the K3 the “Marriage Visa.” With that little change, the names actually provide some useful insight into the details of these visas, and their differences are more intuitive.

If you and your loved one are not yet married, but plan to be married in the U.S., the K1 Fiance(e) Visa is most likely for you. If you have already been, or plan to be, married in your loved one’s native country, before settling in the U.S., then the K3 Marriage Visa is probably the one you’ll want.

However—as with most immigration issues—this is not a cut and dry situation. There are other advantages and disadvantages for both visas. Applicants must carefully consider these before making a choice.

First, let’s discuss some advantages of the K1 Fiance(e) Visa. One of the biggest is that the Fiance(e) Visa allows you and your partner to spend more time together in the U.S. before being legally bound. Couples get a 90-day courtship window before the wedding must take place, during which the foreign partner can live in the U.S. This uninterrupted time together can help solidify a couple’s commitment and provide a strong base for the upcoming marriage.

In addition, U.S. Immigration, rather than a foreign government, processes K1 applications, and require only a single petition. This means K1 Visas are typically approved faster than K3 Marriage Visas. Further, getting married in the U.S. means your marriage will be legal and recognized by U.S. Law. And, importantly, if any problem arises during the immigration process your American attorney can serve as the point person—thus keeping you from being endlessly shuffled between government agents.

Disadvantages of the K1 Fiance(e) include: If you are your partner do not get married within the 90-day window the foreign partner must return to their native country; and, it may require more persuasion to prove the legitimacy of your relationship. Your application must also be perfect, or the approval process could be delayed a year or more.

The K3 Marriage Visa, for couples married in the foreign partner’s country, has its own distinct advantages. For one, you won’t have to work as hard to prove your relationship to the foreign immigration consulate. The K3 grants the foreign partner immediate legal U.S. residency. And the foreign partner is permitted to freely travel back and forth between the U.S. and her native country.

On the downside, the U.S. partner must be granted permission by the foreign country to get married there, and marriage laws between the U.S. and other countries are not always compatible.

In addition, the K3 application process involves two steps instead of one, and all documents must be translated into the language of the foreign country. If a single form is missing from your application you will face serious delays, keeping in mind that dealing with foreign-speaking immigration officials can be extremely difficult.

As you may have suspected, there are quite a few factors to consider when choosing between the K1 and K3. Be advised, as well, that making the wrong decision will result in a significant setback for you and your partner. Therefore, it’s advisable to seek the council of a qualified U.S. immigration attorney, who’ll be able to guide you toward the right visa for you.

U.S. Consular Interview – U.S. Visa Issuance

The United States is, perhaps, one of the only countries in the world that receives more than 9 million visa applications annually, from citizens of all nationalities, who wish to do business, live, work, study or simply visit the country.

 

The United States is, perhaps, one of the only countries in the world that receives more than 9 million visa applications annually, from citizens of all nationalities, who wish to do business, live, work, study or simply visit the country.

It is very common, among circles of friends, families or employees, to consider the consular interview at the U.S. Consulate and the approval of the application for an American visa as “a matter of luck.”

During their interviews with visa applicants, Consular Officers evaluate all of the documents submitted, to be able to determine the granting, the refusal or the cancellation of an American visa. Any unreliable or false data clearly influences and, indeed, determines the decision to approve an application for a visa to visit the United States.

During the consular interview, a fixed set of security measures and legal and administrative procedures are put into operation to determine the granting or refusal of a visa, whether “immigrant” or “non-immigrant”, and the “luck” factor is indeed relative, as each application and the circumstances surrounding it are unique, the results of which often give rise to a series of myths and false beliefs.

Such myths, false beliefs, and arbitrary comments and opinions are generally based on previous consular interviews and can negatively affect an applicant when he has to go for an interview to apply for an American visa, regardless of the type, whether it is “Tourist” or a “Resident” visa he is applying for.

It is quite clear that the views of the employees of unauthorized travel agents, friends and family members can, and do, affect the results of an application for a new visa or the renewal of a previously granted one. This triggers a series of conflicts, confusion, anger and stress when the request is denied, and the applicant then has no idea of what he should do or who to turn to for advice. Many unscrupulous people, who present themselves as “Experts in U.S. Visa Applications”, take advantage of this situation of despair to make some money from the misfortunes of such unsuccessful applicants, regardless of their nationality, their creed or their political and socio-economic status. The mishandling of applications by such unscrupulous people can often drag other family members, from any geographic region of the planet, into unfortunate circumstances with regard to their relationships with the U.S. Consulate and its officers in their own countries.

When a foreigner appears at a U.S. Consulate to request a new visa or renew a previous one of any sort, he must submit the application form, duly filled-in, and accompanied by the relevant documents requested, to be able to have a personal interview with a consular officer, who will then determine whether the applicant is eligible or not for the visa being requested.

The Consular Officer reviews the application form and assesses the evidence available to ensure that the applicant has no intention of staying to live and/or to work illegally in the United States. As such, there are many factors that influence the granting or renewing of an American visa.

Past and present criminal activities, within or outside the U.S., will affect visa applications or renewals at any American Consulate in any geographical region of the world, irrespective of the applicant’s economic, social, religious, or political status.

Many foreigners who belong, have belonged or have collaborated with extreme “leftist” groups accused of terrorist activities anywhere in the world, or who belong or have belonged to religious sects that are identified as subversive, may find that their visa applications are rejected at any U.S. Consulate worldwide. On many occasions, not only have visa applications been refused, but even valid visas have actually been cancelled for people who really have no links at all to such organizations but appear to do so. Such a situation leaves the applicant annoyed and indignant, as he feels that his honor and reputation have been tarnished.

In fact, there have even been cases in which a foreigner’s valid U.S. visa has actually been cancelled, without any explanation and without his having had a previous interview with a consular official. The behavior of many foreign governments and their officials is scrutinized and evaluated by the U.S. State Department and certainly affects the granting of visas for such officials and other government employees of such countries. On the other hand, certain foreign political figures, who have had their applications for a U.S. visa refused or have had a valid visa cancelled, may sometimes be given permission to enter to the United States for specific government functions on behalf of their countries.

Requests for re-entry to the United States after deportation proceedings or cancellation of a U.S. visa at the moment of entry at an immigration check-point at an airport or land border-post, require adequate legal assistance for the applicant to be able to recover such a visa, and the waiting-time is undetermined. The applicant must be calm and patient until the case is settled by the US Department of Homeland Security or by the U.S. Consulate in his country of origin or his country of residence.

The Consular Officers at U.S. Consulates abroad are the first line of the U.S. defense and they have the best information available with in the US government on terrorist threats considering that the data holdings in the consular system now total almost 18 millions records on people ineligible to receive visas.

The U.S. State Department provides access to the 7.5 million visa records in the consular database to the Homeland Security Officers at U.S. Ports of entries so that can check the files of every visaed passenger entering the United States. This database permits examination of detailed on all visas issued sharing too the consular database with the Customs and Border Protection.

During the interview at the U.S. Consulate, multiple factors, many of which are unknown to the applicant, will determine the granting or the refusal of his visa application, factors which often involve research processes at the consular level or by federal authorities in the United States. It is quite common for a Consular Officer to say to an applicant, “I m sorry Sir, but we are awaiting a response from Washington”.

As such, many foreign applicants for visas at U.S. Consulates around the globe are frequently subject to a “special review process”, a situation that often worries and exasperates applicants who have urgent family or business matters to attend to in the United States, causing a series of economic and emotional inconveniences that mentally and emotionally upset even the strongest of individuals.

Avoiding Risks in the Visa Issuance with Technology and Seasoned Consular Officers:

The American visa issuance systems today involve security and administrative functions and its international travel facilitation function protecting the American economy, guaranteeing the national security and preventing terrorism acts.

Moreover, the visa security officers with investigative backgrounds today are able to establish information-sharing relationships with other American Law Enforcements and intelligences agencies specially with in American Consulates that process important number of high-risk “nom immigrant visas” (B1-B2, F1) applicants identifying cross cutting criminal trends and local threat patterns in locations with substantial travel, trade flows and international hot spots of criminal activity.

In many American Consulates abroad, exists cases in with an foreign applicant ´s name match with the American identities database or another type of record, neither the Consular or Security Officers should assess the applicant further until the match is 100% verified.

The Department of Homeland Security has deployed personnel from the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to implement a Visa Security Officers in consular visa applicant interviews to obtain more information from law enforcement and intelligence sources for use in the final American visa adjudication process, process that involves a security management system, data analysis technology, seasoned Consular Officers understanding risk factors and strategic intelligence to identify anomalies.

Since September 11, 2001, the American Congress and the Administration adopted initiatives against terrorists and criminals, using security resources, considering a risk management the U.S. visas issuances, visa security programs, personnel involved in visa applications reviews and the visas process ombudsman authority to review applications.

How Does One Lose An American Visa ?

The circumstances under which a valid American visa may be revoked are:

1.- In the interview with the consular officer when he applies for the renewal of his still valid U.S. visa.

2.- When the holder of a valid American visa is entering the U.S. through an airport, seaport or land border-post. The Immigration Officer in charge of the port has the authority to do so.

3.- If the U.S. State Department issues a visa cancellation order.

The individuals who are most susceptible to losing their valid American visa in any country of the world, and even when they are on American soil, are the following:

1.- Parents, sons or relatives of foreigners already living in the U.S., regardless of social, economic or religious considerations.
2.- Businessmen and entrepreneurs.
3.- Students and teachers.
4.- Religious ministers of any belief.
5.- Aviation pilots and merchant seamen.
6.- Politicians or former politicians.
7.- Military personnel and policemen, or former military personnel and former policemen.
8.- Individuals linked to narcotics trafficking, money laundering and their collaborators.
9.- Individuals associated with groups linked to terrorist activities.
10.- Individuals linked to the trafficking or theft of sensitive technology in any commercial, scientific or technological field.

Consular Back-Listen Of Families

Because of misunderstandings with US Immigration Officials at air, land and sea-ports, or due to the incorrect handling of visa applications, entire families might sometimes be black-listed and systematically refused visas or renewals.

Many foreign company executives, for example, move to the United States to work and to live there with their families, without having obtained all the necessary immigration requirements, such as the L1 Intra-company visa, the H1 Labor visa, or a simple “Residence” visa, among others, and hope to be able to arrange these documents once they have entered the country. When they are refused such visas and must return to their countries of origin or residence to deal with their local U.S. Consulates, they sometimes find that their original visa has been revoked and that their entire family has now been refused entry to the United States.

Sanctions and consular refusals of this type seriously affect the applicant’s businesses, both in their countries of origin and in the United States, and almost always disrupt their family life, their housing arrangements and the education of their children.

Converting from ‘Visitor’ to ‘Student’ Not Always Possible

Whatever the reason might be, we must remember that common sense and consistency don’t always rule the day when it comes to the immigration process. It’s better to be guided by the act, regulations, and policy manual than by logic or intuition.

 

Q. I entered Canada with a visitor’s visa and wish to extend my stay for a two-year study program. I have successfully enrolled in a university and have enough funds to cover tuition, accommodation, and any medical needs.

Why is the law such that I need to leave Canada and re-enter as a student? Can’t the study permit simply be processed from within Canada using the forms available online?

A. Explaining ‘how’ to apply for your study permit is a lot easier than explaining to you ‘why’ it must be done that way…especially when I don’t believe that this procedure makes a lot of sense in most situations.

Unfortunately, many visitors in Canada are too late in learning what you already know. While in Canada as visitors, they try to ‘convert’ their status to ‘student’ which of course they can’t normally do. They waste precious months before being told by the Case Processing Centre in Vegreville, Alta., that it cannot process the study permit application from within Canada. Often in such situations, it is too late to re-apply at a visa post outside of Canada in time for the beginning of the school year. In some cases, they even fall out of status while waiting in futility.

Some foreigners may submit an inland application for a study permit, i.e. holders of a valid work or study permit and their family members; holders of temporary resident permits (TRPs) which are valid for a minimum of six months and their family members; those who have been approved-in-principle for permanent residence as live-in-caregivers, spouses and common law partners, protected persons and humanitarian applicants; persons who are subject to unenforceable removal orders; etc.

Most others must submit an application outside of Canada and if successful, must be admitted as students at a Canadian port-of-entry.

A study permit may be renewed from within Canada if the application is timely, the applicant has not violated any of the terms and conditions of his/her prior permit, and is in good standing at the educational institution at which they are/were studying. If a timely application for renewal has been made the applicant may continue to study after the expiry of the study permit provided they continue to otherwise comply with the terms of their expired permit.

Confusion may be caused by the fact that the form that is used to extend visitors status in Canada has a box that you can tick off stating that you are applying for ‘An initial study permit or extension of a study permit’. However, such use of this form is limited to those who are exempted from applying from outside of Canada.

I suppose that if immigration officials were pressed to explain the rationale for this overseas requirement, they would cite ‘program integrity’ as the reason, meaning that it is easier for officers at our Canadian visa posts abroad to assess these applications since they are closer to the action there. In other words, officers in Canada would be hampered in doing background checks due to their relative unfamiliarity with documents, institutions, and conditions abroad and by the possible differences in time zones which may make enquiries from here more difficult. However, this explanation must be tempered by the fact that there are many officers in Canada who, on a daily basis, process temporary as well as permanent resident applications entirely from within Canada and who are, presumably, able to overcome these obstacles.

Whatever the reason might be, we must remember that common sense and consistency don’t always rule the day when it comes to the immigration process. It’s better to be guided by the act, regulations, and policy manual than by logic or intuition.

The results usually turn out much better that way.

Green Cards Via Trade and Investment in the U.S

E-1 (Treaty Trader) & E-2 (Investment) Visas

 

For most foreign nationals wanting to permanently live and work in the United States, the ultimate goal is to obtain a “green card”or permanent residency status. The most common method of obtaining permanent residency is through sponsorship by an employer or family member.

For wealthy individuals, a $1 million investment in a business that creates or preserves at least 10 full-time jobs is also an option. That amount is reduced to $500,000 where the business is located in areas of high unemployment or other qualifying rural areas.

However, where these options are unavailable, foreign nationals from countries with investment or commerce treaties with the United States may still obtain a visa to live and work in the United States by either investing in a business in the United States (E-1 visa) or by conducting trade with the United States (E-2 visa). The requirements of the E visa may be found in §101(a)(15)(E) of the Immigration and Naturalization Act; 8 U.S.C.A. §1101(a)(15)(E).

The E visa category may be used by various types of companies, whether owned by individuals or large multinational corporations, and may be used by the company’s principals or by its employees. Although the E visa is considered a non-immigrant visa, unlike other nonimmigrant visas, it may be renewed indefinitely and the E visa holder may apply for a green card through the business supporting the E visa.

There are three basic requirements for obtaining an E-1 or E-2 visa. First, a treaty must exist between the United States and the foreign national’s home country. Germany, Italy, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Taiwan, Pakistan, Iran, Japan and Australia are just some of the countries that have treaties with the United States.

Second, majority ownership or control of the investing or trading company must be held by nationals of the foreign country. Third, every employee or principal of the company seeking E visa status must be a citizen of the foreign country where the company is based.

An E-1 or Treaty-Trader visa is for individuals involved in the exchange, purchase or sale of goods, services or merchandise. Services include but are not limited to technology architecture, engineering consulting or accounting services. The trade must principally be between the United States and the treaty country. That is, more than 50 percent of the total volume of international trade must be between the U.S. and the treaty country.

Also, the amount of trade must be sufficient to ensure a continuous flow of international trade between the U.S. and the treaty country. Finally, the trade in goods and services should be “substantial” in terms of value, volume or a large number of small transactions. There is no minimum dollar amount necessary for the investment to be considered “substantial” and this requirement is determined on a case by case basis. For example, the import or export of a million widgets at $0.50 per widget would be considered substantial. However, importing three machines at $333,000 per machine may not be considered substantial.

The E-2 or Investment visa is available for investors in a new or existing U.S. business. The investor must play an active role in the development and direction of the business. As with the E-1 visa, the E-2 investor must show that a “substantial” investment or funds are available and committed to the investment. Again, the “substantial” requirement is determined on a case by case basis. Investment in a manufacturing plant would require a higher dollar investment than investment in a consulting business, which may simply require a computer, facsimile and a telephone.

The E visa application may either be filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service for those already in the United States or with a U.S. consulate for those foreign nationals outside the United States. If filed with the USCIS, the application waiting period is generally several months. The USCIS offers an option for premium processing. For an additional $1,000 fee, the USCIS will process the application in 15 days. If filed with a U.S. consulate, it usually takes a few days for the visa to be issued after the interview. Wait times for interviews vary by consulate.

The E visa also has several advantage over other nonimmigrant visas for the families of E visa holders. First, the spouse and children (unmarried and under 21) of E-1 or E-2 visa holders are entitled to the same E-1 or E-2 classification as the principal. They also may apply for work authorization once they arrive in the United States and may renew their E visa status indefinitely as long as the primary E visa holder maintains E status. Finally, these dependents may also apply for permanent residency with the primary E visa holder.

The Importance of an American Visa B1-B2

An American visa is the most valuable key that a foreign citizen has for entering the United States and be able:to do business make investments, do banking transactions, or to travel freely and legally within the U.S. territory, to study, work, to take an aeronautical course, make legal arrangements of all types, or to simply enjoy a vacation, sightseeing and entertaining oneself, among many other benefits.

 

An American visa is the most valuable key that a foreign citizen has for entering the United States and be able:to do business make investments, do banking transactions, or to travel freely and legally within the U.S. territory, to study, work, to take an aeronautical course, make legal arrangements of all types, or to simply enjoy a vacation, sightseeing and entertaining oneself, among many other benefits.

Yet, many people, both inside and outside the United States, do not fully value the present and future importance of their American visas and sometimes make serious mistakes that could cause the cancellation of their visas or the refusal to renew their visas at any Consulate of the United States of America in any geographic region of the world

The rejection of a visa may be due to economic factors, the discovery of false informative having been given to a American Consulate, fraud, personal or family confusion or penal matters, either in the United States, their own country of origin, or any other country around the world.

Requests for American visas or their renewals can be seriously jeopardized, at the Consular level or at the US Immigration Service (USCIS-DHS) of the United States, by inadvertent errors, confusion or simply because the applicant has handled the matter badly. He then tries desperately to vindicate his name, which may well have fallen into an abyss which is extremely difficult to get out of.

There are many different difficult, conflicting and even touching situations that can befall the father of a family, his children, his wife or sentimental companion, or other relatives when they appear at an American Consulate or the U.S. Immigration Service to apply for any type of American visa. Many people take their interviews at the U.S. Consulate very seriously when they are applying for any sort of U.S. visa, whether it be an “Immigrant” (Residence) visa, or simply a “Non-immigrant” visa, which may be of many different sorts, (B1, B2, F1, H1, J, etc.), whereas other people do not show the slightest concern about their behavior before an American consular officer. Afterwards, however, parents, children, spouses, partners, relatives and friends are all either overjoyed or weeping in crisis when their visa requests have either been approved or refused. The rejection or the cancellation of a U.S. visa can cause such a lot of frustration, pain and suffering for entire families that the visa application must be a matter of great consideration for anyone who wishes to enter the United States.

So many people are distressed when their requests of “tourist” and/or “businesses” visas (B1-B2), or for “Permanent Residence” visas are rejected, as their world falls in on them as they lose control over their goods or property, while for others it may simply be the case that it becomes difficult or impossible for them to study or visit the United States of America.

So many young foreign students see themselves deeply affected when their American visa requests to study or to simply enjoy tourism in the U.S. are rejected or cancelled, causing them situations of frustration, isolation and personal crisis, especially when their parents have made great economic sacrifices to send to them to study in the U.S.

So many foreign businessmen, small, medium or large, disguise their deep pain, when their requests for an American visa or for a renovation are rejected and/or their visas are cancelled, passively observing how their business life is destroyed, and often because of an error, a false declaration, from innocent ignorance when they were filling-in their visa requests at an American Consulate.
So many foreign people experience difficult moments, moments of anguish and nervous tension when their visa requests are subject to an investigation by of the American Consulate or by the American federal authorities.
Many foreign professional people, such as military men, politicians or ex-politicians, police officers, try with great force and even bitterness, to hide what they truly feel when their applications for American visas or their valid visas have been denied or revoked including those of their children and/or their spouses. Many difficult situations arise when just one fiancé or spouse has had their American visa request rejected, causing grief and misfortune and consequently the separation of the couple..

Even many foreign religious people, including priests, pastors, missionaries or clergymen of all religions suffer distress when they wish to visit the United States and their visa requests are rejected or questioned.

Deep pain is felt by commercial, civil or military pilots, aviation mechanics, sailors and ships’ crewmen when they are unable to enter the United States because their requests for visas or renovations have been rejected, revoked, or questioned, which seriously limits their international field of operation.
So many international sportsmen, athletes or artists experience serious professional and commercial conflict when they have to appear at some international event, especially in the United States, and their visa requests have been refused or questioned by the Officials of an American Consulate.

Should I Plead Guilty?

Question: Child Protective Services took my kids away, but their father got them back. When I was arrested, the media came over to my house to get the story. Now the Toledo Police Department has a case against me in court. I was appointed a public defender. Yesterday, I met with her and she told me that I have two options: I can go to trial or plead guilty. She advised me to plead guilty.

 

This is the first time that I have ever been arrested. My charges are higher because the police record shows that I was arrested 14 and 15 years ago in California with gun possession. It shows that I was convicted for that offense. However, I came into this country in July 2000 when I was 12 years old and never lived in California. So now I feel like I am being forced to plead guilty because those charges are adding more problems to my case. Even my attorney says that she doesn’t know what to do about it.

Answer: Lawyers are not required to know the answer to every legal question immediately upon being asked. If there is an area of the law with which they are unfamiliar, they can usually research the subject or ask a colleague for input in order to have accurate information to relay to the client. When you are read your Miranda rights, you are told that you have a right to a lawyer if you cannot afford one. This also means that you are entitled to a competent lawyer. If you believe that your lawyer does not recognize important legal issues to best advise you on how to proceed, you can ask the court to appoint another lawyer. You can also choose to hire a private lawyer who may be more knowledgeable about the various issues your case involves.

Immigration Issues

It is not clear in your question whether you are legally present in the United States or not. You stated that you moved into the country when you were 12 years old in July of 2000. If you are not legally present in the country, being convicted of a criminal offense could make you removable. It is important that you fully comprehend any immigration risks that are associated with a guilty plea before you make it. You may wish to discuss your case with a lawyer familiar with immigration issues.

Police Record Inaccuracies

If you believe that the information in your criminal record is inaccurate, you may be able to correct it. It may be inaccurate because someone has stolen your identity. If you entered the country illegally, your parents may have used someone else’s identity who later committed criminal offenses. Simple clerical errors can also cause inaccuracies in police records.

Since you say that the conviction was in California, you will need to contact the Department of justice of the State of California, an agency that is headed under the state Office of the Attorney General. First, you must request a copy of your official criminal record. After you receive it, you will likely need to submit a form in which you specifically detail information that you believe is inaccurate and why. You will also likely have to submit your fingerprints with this request. It is important that you understand any risks associated with using this strategy, such as more criminal records being uncovered that are associated with you. Consult an attorney before commencing this process.

If there is inaccurate information, the Office of the Attorney General may correct it and supply you with an amended form. You may also have to contact the law enforcement agency that provided the information. This may be a long process, and there is no guarantee that this problem would be solved before you would have to enter a guilty or not guilty plea.

Options

Ultimately, whether you decide to plead guilty or proceed to trial is your decision to make. A lawyer can help inform you of the risks, but he or she cannot generally override your decision. There are certain risks with proceeding to trial, such as facing the maximum punishment.

If you would like to plead guilty but you believe that you are not receiving a fair plea bargain due to the inaccuracies in your criminal record, your lawyer may be able to communicate the information about these inaccuracies. He or she may show the prosecutor that you are taking steps to resolve the discrepancy. A prosecutor often has discretion to offer a plea bargain in order to quickly resolve cases before trial.

Military Expands Program which Expedites US Citizenship

Recently, the Defense Department greatly expanded a program which allows certain persons holding temporary visas to bypass the green card process and apply directly for US citizenship.

 

The MAVNI (Military Accession Vital to National Interest) program was started in 2008 to recruit persons with medical skills (Certain physicians and nurses, etc.) or with special language skills into to the US military. Most of these persons have to be present in the US in temporary visa status. Once they complete their basic training, they are immediately eligible to apply for naturalization.

MAVNI has strict numerical limits. However, the numbers were recently increased from 1,500 to 3,000 per year and will increase again in fiscal year 2016 (which starts October 1, 2015) to 5,000 per year.

The government recently announced that it would accept applications from persons with DACA work permits. Also, persons with TPS, physicians who had not received a J waiver, and asylees/refugees are eligible to apply. Caveat: Spanish is not one of the languages on the MAVNI list.

Eligible individuals can enlist for a 3-year contractual active duty tour or for 6 years in the Selected Reserve.

If a person naturalizes, but fails to complete the above requirements, their US citizenship can be revoked.

Languages include Albanian, Amharic, Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bengali, Bulgarian, Burmese, Cebuano, Cambodian-Khmer, Chinese, Czech, French (with citizenship from an African Country), Georgian, Haitian Creole, Hausa, Hindi, Hungarian, Igbo, Indonesian, Kashmiri, Korean, Kurdish, Lao, Malay, Malayalam, Moro (Tausug/Maranao/Maguindanao), Nepalese, Pashto, Persian Dari, Persian Farsi, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Sindhi, Serbo-Croatian, Singhalese, Somali, Swahili, Tagalog, Tajik, Tamil, Thai, Turkish, Turkmen, Ukrainian, Urdu (with citizenship from Pakistan or Afghanistan), Uzbek, and Yoruba.

Active Duty Medical Specialties include Comprehensive Dentist, Oral Surgeon, Preventive Medicine, Anesthesiologist, Pediatrician, Psychiatrist, Internal Medicine, Family Medicine, General Surgeon, Emergency Medicine, Nuclear Medical Science Officer, Entomologist, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, and Nurse Anesthetist.

Army Reserve Medical Specialties include General Dentist, Comprehensive Dentist, Prosthodontist, Oral Surgeon, Preventive Medicine, Urologist, Anesthesiologist, Ophthalmologist, Otolaryngologist (ENT), Psychiatrist, Internal Medicine, Family Medicine, General Surgeon, Thoracic Surgeon, Orthopedic Surgeon, Emergency Medicine, Entomologist, Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Physician Assistant, and Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner.

For Army Reserve only: Health care professionals in their final year of residency may be eligible to apply to the MAVNI program.

More H-1B Visas and Green Cards

On January 13, a bipartisan group of Senators introduced the Immigration Innovation (“I-Squared”) Act of 2015.

 

The Act would create a much-needed overhaul of our broken legal immigration system. It would dramatically raise the H-1B cap, and would provide much-needed reforms of the employment-based preference system for green cards. It would also raise the per-country cap for family-based green cards.

What follows is a brief summary of the I-Squared Act.

Temporary Visas

Raise the general H-1B cap from 65,000 to 115,000

Allow the cap to go up (but not above 195,000) within any fiscal year where early filings exceed cap and require the cap to go down in a following fiscal year (but not below 115,000) if usage at the end of any fiscal year is below that particular year’s cap

Remove the 20,000 limit for the Masters’ cap

Reform fees on H-1B visas and employment-based green cards; use money from these fees to fund a grant program to promote STEM education and worker retraining to be administered by the states

Grant employment authorization for H-4 visa holders

Establish a grace period during which foreign workers can change jobs and not be out of status and restore visa revalidation for E, H, L, O, and P visas

Allow dual intent for foreign students at US universities

Green Cards

Enable the recapture of green card numbers that were approved by Congress in previous years but were not used, and continue this policy going forward through the roll-over of unused green cards in future fiscal years to the following fiscal year.

Exempt certain categories of persons from the employment-based green card cap:
Dependents of employment-based immigrant visa recipients
US STEM advance degree holders
Persons of extraordinary ability
Outstanding professors and researchers

Eliminates per-country limits for employment-based green cards

Increases per-country limits for family-based green cards from 7% to 15%

The I-Squared bill would remove many of the artificial limits on obtaining temporary work visas and permanent residence for the next generation of entrepreneurs and leaders in science and technology. Providing more visas for these innovators will, in turn, create additional jobs for US workers.

EB-3 Category: Faster Waiting Times

Fantastic news for those in the EB-3 category.

 

Two years ago, the wait for those in the EB-3 category was almost 6 years to get a green card, even more for persons born in the Philippines (as well as China and India, which is a problem yet to be resolved by Congress). During the past 2 years, the wait has been shrinking and shrinking.

Now, in the February 2015 Visa Bulletin, the wait has fallen to 13 months, and the State Department predicts even faster waiting times in the months ahead.

This is an opportunity which you cannot afford to miss. If you qualify for a green card in the EB-3 category (Professionals and Skilled Workers), make sure your employer submits a PERM application for you immediately!

If you are a Registered Nurse or a Physical Therapist, no PERM application is required. Your employer should submit an I-140 visa petition on your behalf as soon as possible. As soon as your priority date becomes current, apply for a green card using form I-485.

EB-3 vs. H-1B

This is especially great news for foreign-born students studying in the US. Once you graduate, you can apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT). OPT is a work permit which is valid for at least 12 months, or for some STEM jobs, up to 29 months.
Since getting an H-1B temporary work visa is a 50-50 lottery these days, if your employer submits a PERM application or an I-140 petition at the beginning of your OPT period, you may be able to go directly from OPT to Green Card, and bypass H-1B altogether.

This is great news for employers as well, given the costs and uncertainty of obtaining H-1B status for essential employees.
Don’t hesitate, apply immediately!