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Posts Tagged ‘US Immigration Lawyer’

25th March 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) may be changing some of the procedures associated with the processing of immigration petitions pertaining to the application for issuance of the CR-1 visa, IR-1 visa, K-1 visa, and K-3 visa filed by United States Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents. To quote directly from a recent USCIS Memo posted on ILW.com:

This memorandum provides guidance to USCIS service centers regarding changes in the handling of all stand-alone I-130 and I-129F petitions filed by petitioners who have been convicted of any “specified offense against a minor” under the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 (“Adam Walsh Act” or “AWA”) and related issues.1 This memorandum applies only to petitions that are adjudicated at the service centers and not to petitions adjudicated at USCIS field offices.

Generally I-130 petitions (the categorical designation used to refer to the petition for a CR-1 visa or an IR-1 visa) are processed by the USCIS Service Center designated by the lockbox upon receipt. In some cases, it may be possible to process an I-130 petition at one of the various USCIS field offices located abroad, such as the USCIS office in Bangkok. The I-129f petition (categorical designation used to denote the US fiance visa or K1 visa) can only be processed at a USCIS Service Center in the USA as the field offices overseas do not process such petitions as of the time of this writing. To quote further from the previously mentioned memorandum:

USCIS will centralize at VSC all files currently at service centers if the service center adjudicator has made a preliminary determination that the petition warrants review as an AWA-related case. The VSC will serve as a central clearinghouse for inquiries from Federal, State, and local agencies regarding AWA-related cases that are pending or were recently adjudicated at one of the four service centers [hereafter referred to as “originating service center” or “sending service center”]. While AWA-related cases require special handling, the decision to centralize AWA-related adjudications at the VSC will affect caseloads at other service centers only minimally.

Clearly, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) is making policy changes in an effort to take steps to more efficiently process cases requiring further scrutiny pursuant to the Adam Walsh Act (AWA). In a way, the Vermont Service Center’s role in AWA-related cases is somewhat similar to the role of the National Visa Center in the overall US visa process as that agency is tasked with acting as a sort of clearinghouse for visa applications arriving from USCIS and being processed out to a US Embassy or US Consulate abroad. Although, NVC is under the authority of the Department of State whereas the Vermont Service Center (like the other USCIS Service Centers) is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and USCIS.

For related information please see: Adam Walsh Act.

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28th January 2011

Those who have read this web log with any frequency in the past may have noticed that the administration routinely posts information regarding attorney licensure and the practice of United States Immigration law. Recently, this blogger discovered some interesting information on this subject while researching the issue on the official website of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). To quote some of that information directly:

If Then
You are filing within the United States Attorneys and accredited representatives may communicate with USCIS on your behalf and receive information from USCIS regarding your application or petition.
You are filing an application or petition at an office outside the United States Attorneys and accredited representatives may communicate with USCIS on your behalf and receive information from USCIS regarding your application or petition…

It should be reiterated that only a licensed American attorney has the unfettered privilege of practicing American immigration law before the Department of Homeland Security and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Although charitable organizations in the USA may be accredited to represent individuals before the USCIS and/or the US Immigration Courts, such representation is conducted on a not-for-profit basis. Licensed American attorneys are generally in a good position to provide advice and counsel regarding immigration matters due to education and experience. However, so-called “immigration consultants,” “visa agents,” and “visa companies” lack both the credentials and qualification to provide advice and representation of clients before USCIS, DHS, and/or the Department of State (DOS). To quote the USCIS website further:

Attorneys must be a member in good standing of the bar of a U.S. State (or U.S. possession, territory, Commonwealth, or the District of Columbia) and not be under any court order restricting their practice of law. Attorneys will check the first block on Form G-28 and must provide information regarding their admission to practice.

Only attorneys and accredited representatives may communicate on your behalf regarding your application with USCIS.

In choosing an attorney, you should:

  • Ensure that the attorney is a member in good standing of the “bar” of a U.S. State (or possession, territory, Commonwealth or District of Columbia)
  • Ensure that the attorney is not under any court order restricting their practice of law
  • Review the current attorney licensing document for the attorney and contact the relevant State bar admission authorities to verify the information.  See the “American Bar Association – State Bar Associations” link to the right for a list of state bar associations.
  • Review the “List of Currently Disciplined Practitioners” in the link to the right. This is where the Executive Office for Immigration Review lists if an attorney has been expelled or suspended from practice before USCIS/DHS
  • Review the “List of Previously Disciplined Practitioners” available from the “List of Currently Disciplined Practitioners”  page on the EOIR website

A lawfully admitted attorney should honor your request for this information, as State Bar practice rules require disclosure of this information to clients. Before you pay attorney fees for help with your immigration case, make sure that the individual is a licensed attorney.

You should also review the lists of currently disciplined and previously disciplined practitioners on the Executive Office for Immigration Review website. These lists will help you to determine whether the attorney has been expelled or suspended from practice before USCIS/DHS.  To review these lists, please see the links in the “External Links” section of this page.

Those wishing to retain professional assistance during the United States Immigration process are well advised to take note of the citation quoted above as this information is very useful for those seeking attorney assistance. That said, the forthcoming quote deals with the issue of fake lawyers, visa agents, notarios, and immigration consultants who have been known to imitate genuine American attorneys in an effort to further their own interests while simultaneously fleecing an unsuspecting public (both immigrants and American Citizens). To quote the USCIS website one further time:

Notarios, notary publics and immigration consultants may NOT represent you before USCIS.

Those wishing to bring their loved one from another country for family reunification in the USA should take note of the above quotation. In Thailand, for example, there are some fly-by-night operators claiming both expertise in immigration law as well as qualification, without actually possessing either. For this reason, it is always prudent to ask for the licensure information of those claiming the ability to represent individuals before USCIS, DHS, and DOS.

Licensed foreign lawyers may, under some circumstances, be able to provide some limited representation, but only upon authorization from USCIS, those interested should consult the USCIS website directly as this issue is not the intended topic of this posting.

For related information please see: K1 Visa Thailand.

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19th September 2010

This author has frequently discussed the myriad problems that Immigrants can face when dealing with an unlicensed American immigration “agent” or “specialist“. American law and Federal Regulations are clear regarding the issue of who is allowed to provide legal services in matters arising before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) specifically; or any of the other agencies which are overseen by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Only licensed attorneys from the United States of America are able to provide consultations about US Immigration matters for a fee. Furthermore, only an attorney licensed by the Highest Court of least one US State, Commonwealth, or outlying territory is allowed charge fees to represent clients before DHS, including USCIS.

Unfortunately, there are some unauthorized organizations throughout the world claiming to be able to provide advice and assistance in American Immigration matters. The internet has proven to be a great tool for those wishing to research matters pertaining to United States Immigration. Meanwhile, it has also provided a platform for some operations which claim legal expertise without appropriate training or licensure. Such individuals and entities ought to be avoided at all costs since information transmitted to such individuals and entities may not be protected by the usual legal protections accorded to communications conveyed between an American attorney and their client. Furthermore, one who is not legally trained or not licensed to provide legal services in a given jurisdiction or about a particular subject cannot provide effective counsel nor lawful confidentiality to those seeking their assistance. This can be especially important to those conveying sensitive information about a case pending before an immigration tribunal, agency, US Embassy, or US Consulate abroad. Those engaged in the unauthorized practice of law in the aforementioned manner are thereby placing their own interests, as well as those of their unsuspecting “clients’”, in jeopardy.

When comparing the costs of legal service it is important to understand the pivotal role of licensure when making a decision to retain counsel. No licensed legal professional is likely to have a problem with prospective clients shopping for a reasonably priced service with a professional that they feel comfortable dealing with. In general, licensed American attorneys find that competition with other professionals makes for a healthy and prosperous business environment, but to compare the services of a licensed American immigration attorney with one who is not licensed to practice law creates a false comparison as US law is clear that those without licensure cannot provide the services which they claim they can provide in an immigration context. In short: one cannot compare a legal service with an illegal service from a price standpoint as an illegal service provider simply cannot provide such services at any price.

For further information please see: licensed lawyer. To learn more about US Immigration from Southeast Asia please see: US Immigration Law Thailand.

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8th March 2010

Recently the Department of Homeland Security issued a notice that the rules regarding attorney representation would be amended in order to fall in line with the relevant Department of Justice regulations. To quote a the summary in the Federal Register which is displayed on the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) website:

“The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is amending its regulations governing representation and appearances by, and professional conduct of, practitioners in immigration practice before its components to: Conform the grounds of discipline and procedures regulations with those promulgated by the Department of Justice (DOJ); clarify who is authorized to represent applicants and petitioners in cases before DHS; remove duplicative rules, procedures, and authority; improve the clarity and uniformity of the existing regulations; make technical and procedural changes; and conform terminology. This rule enhances the integrity of the immigration adjudication process by updating and clarifying the regulation of professional conduct of immigration practitioners who practice before DHS.”

As has been discussed on this blog before, the issue of attorney representation is of great importance due to the fact that there are many disreputable organizations calling themselves such things as “visa company,” “visa agency,” or, “visa consultant” and other unscrupulous operators who go so far as to claim attorney credentials when they are, in fact, unlicensed to practice law in the United States and therefore unable to practice US Immigration law. To quote the Federal Register again:

“Definition of attorney. This rule amends the definition of “attorney” at 8 CFR 1.1(f), to conform with DOJ’s definition at 8 CFR 1001.1(f), by adding the requirement that an attorney must be eligible to practice law in the bar of any State, possession, territory, or Commonwealth of the United States, or of the District of Columbia, in addition to the other requirements for attorneys set forth in that regulation. State bar rules uniformly require licensed attorneys to maintain an active status in order to practice law; however, there has been some confusion as to the applicability of that requirement in determining eligibility to appear as a representative before DHS.”

It is interesting that this addition was made as it imposes an more stringent burden upon practitioners as anyone practicing before the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or its agencies, like the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), the United States Customs and Border Protection Service (CBP), and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (ICE) must be eligible to practice in virtually every American jurisdiction. It should be noted that eligibility is the only new requirement added as DHS does not require that practitioners be licensed to practice in all US jurisdictions.

It should also be pointed out that attorneys are not the only individuals who can represent clients before DHS. In fact, if an individual is accredited by the Board of Immigration Appeals, then they may represent individuals in certain DHS proceedings. However, such agents are usually non-profit organizations as non-attorney representatives are NOT entitled to charge anything except nominal fees.

For related information please see US Lawyer Thailand or US Visa Thailand.


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14th January 2010

Virtually all American news media outlets are reporting on the devastation and destruction brought on by the Earthquake in Haiti. We at Integrity Legal would like to take this opportunity to extend our heartfelt sympathies to all of those who have been adversely impacted by this tragedy. For those of Haitian descent or nationality currently living in the United States, the Earthquake has also had an impact upon Department of Homeland Security (DHS) policy. In a recent press release, the Deputy United States Press Secretary Matt Chandler made the following statement:

“Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Assistant Secretary John Morton today halted all removals to Haiti for the time being in response to the devastation caused by yesterday’s earthquake. ICE continues to closely monitor the situation.”

We at Integrity Legal would like to let the United States Department of Homeland Security as well as Secretary Napolitano know that we appreciate their compassion in this matter as the situation places that agency in a difficult position.

When an alien in the United States is removed, they are generally sent back to their country of origin. In the case of Haitians they are sent back to Haiti, but sending a deportee back to Haiti under the current circumstance would, at the very least, be considered by most to be a rather callous initiative. By suspending removals, DHS has shown that they can respond to a difficult situation in a decisive and compassionate manner.

Removal from the United States can occur as a result of deportation proceedings in United States Immigration Court or expedited removal can occur at a United States port of entry after the finding by a Customs and Border Protection Officer that the prospective entrant should be removed from the United States.

Depending upon the method of removal, the alien will be inadmissible to the United States for a statutorily prescribed period of time. However, there may be a remedy to the issue of inadmissibility either through use of an I-601 waiver or an I-212 application for advance permission to reenter the United States.  Those who have previously been removed from the US may face even stiffer penalties for trying to reenter after removal if they do not seek a waiver or advance permission to reenter.

For those who have been previously removed from the United States and wish to seek reentry, it would probably be wise to contact a licensed US Immigration lawyer in order to obtain advice about how best to proceed in attempting to obtain US Immigration benefits.

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5th October 2009

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service adjudicates many applications for US Immigration benefits. As a result, they deal with a large number of government forms. A form that is quite familiar to United States Immigration Attorneys is known as the G28. The G28 is the form which puts the United States government on notice that a licensed attorney has entered his or her appearance in the case. According to recent statements from USCIS, the current G28 is to be phased out and replaced by a new version.

According to a recent government press release:

“USCIS will provide a 30-day grace period for the Form G-28, until Oct. 30, so that Forms G-28 currently in the mail will be considered valid when received at the USCIS Lockbox facility or USCIS Service Center. After Oct. 30, any prior versions of the Form G-28 that are received will be considered invalid. All Forms G-28 filed before Oct. 30, will be honored for previously filed cases as long as the Forms G-28 were properly completed by an eligible attorney or accredited representative. The new Form G-28 is not required for receiving updates or interviews unless a new attorney is representing the applicant.”

Usage of form G28 is a method of detecting whether one is dealing with a licensed attorney as opposed to a “visa agent” “visa consultant” or an out and out fraud claiming to be an “immigration lawyer”. The G28 can be useful for weeding out impostors because it requires that the attorney provide his or her state of license. Other forms in a visa application will likely require the attorney’s license number. Although there are some refugee and other non-profit agencies entitled to represent clients before USCIS, these groups are not allowed to profit from said representation. Therefore, the only paid representative that will be recognized by USCIS for matters in the USA is an attorney licensed in a United States jurisdiction.

For those who are not licensed to practice law in the United States, filing a G28 on behalf of another could be construed as the unauthorized practice of law due to the rule that only attorneys are qualified to represent clients before the Immigration service for profit.

The grace period mentioned in the quote above means that at the time of this writing there are approximately 25 days left to use the old G28 form. Bearing this in mind, it may be better to simply begin using the new form as soon as possible in order to forestall a rejection of the form due to expiration.

For more information please see K1 visa application

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18th June 2009

Hiring an Immigration attorney is a decision that each couple makes based upon their unique set of circumstances and that decision should be made after careful review and research. That being said, when the decision is made that a US visa lawyer is necessary,  sometimes couples are unwittingly duped into hiring a non-licensed “immigration consultant” or “visa agent.” In even worse situations, the couple believes that they are actually retaining the services of a licensed lawyer when in fact they are dealing with someone who has never completed formal legal training or been licensed to practice law.

Form G-28 is a required form that must be submitted to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) when the initial visa application is sent to the USCIS Service Center. Basically, the G-28 puts the United States government officers working at USCIS on notice that an attorney will be representing the petitioner, beneficiary, or (more common in family base cases) both parties. Further, the US Embassy in Bangkok will currently allow attorney’s to present 221g follow up documentation provided a G-28 form has been signed by the Beneficiary and the attorney can produce credentials showing that they are in fact licensed to practice law in at least one United States jurisdiction.

One of the convenient aspects of hiring an attorney from the point of view of the United States Citizen petitioner and the Thai fiancee Beneficiary is the fact that once the attorney enters his or her appearance, then most, if not all correspondence, will be sent to the attorney’s office.

Also, the G-28 acts as a litmus test to determine if the person or organization one is dealing with is an actual attorney or law firm. USCIS has made regulations which stipulate that only attorneys and non-profit organizations are allowed to represent clients in United States Immigration matters. With regard to non-profit organization, these types of institutions are defined as those like the Red Cross or other non-governmental refugee organizations. In circumstances where a “representative” is used who is not a licensed attorney, USCIS has stated that the representative must take little or nothing with regard toa fee. This provision seems truly to have been designed with organizations assisting indigent refugees in mind.

On the G-28 form, the attorney, petitioner, and beneficiary will need to affix their signatures. The attorney will also place his or her state of licensure on the form. In the case of the K-1 visa application, the attorney will also place his or her G-28 number on the form I-129f.

For further information please see:

K1 Visa

K3 Visa

(Please be on Notice: this piece is not intended to be regarded as a substitute for legal advice. Please seek legal advice from a licensed attorney. This post creates no lawyer-client relationship between the parties writing or reading it.)

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