Zulma Lopez

Zulma Lopez

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Expansion to the provisional waiver program will now include relatives of lawful permanent residents.

The Department of Homeland Security announced an expansion to the provisional waiver program that will go into effect on Monday, August 29th, 2016. This new rule expands the program to include relatives of lawful permanent residents. In practice, you could benefit from the new rule if you:

1) Have an approved family immigration petition, I-130, and are currently in the United States;
2) Have a visa number available;
3) Entered the United States without admission; and,
4) Have a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident parent or spouse that will suffer extreme hardship if your waiver is not approved.

The new rule also expands the provisional waiver to include, in certain circumstances, immigrants who have a prior order of deportation. These are significant and positive changes in the area of immigration waivers. Attorney Zulma Lopez has ample experience in the preparation and approval of immigration waivers. If you think you may qualify under the new rule, call us today for a consultation. These changes bring hope to thousands of immigrants that could not have otherwise benefited from a provisional waiver under the original rule.

Please also be mindful that if you have a criminal record or if you have ever been stopped by the police, you shouldn’t file a provisional waiver without first consulting with an attorney experienced in immigration waivers. There are additional pitfalls that could jeopardize your application, such as multiple illegal entries into the country. Your case is unique, do not put your immigration case in the hands of a Notario or an inexperienced attorney.

As soon as this new rule comes into effect on August 29th, 2016, we will update our webpage to reflect the changes and give you more details on how you or your family member could benefit from it and acquire lawful permanent residency. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Cambios al perdón provisional beneficiarán a familiares de residentes permanentes.

El Departamento de Seguridad Nacional (Homeland Security Department) acaba de anunciar una expansión al perdón provisional que tomará efecto el 29 de agosto del 2016. La nueva regla amplía la protección del perdón provisional para incluir a residentes permanentes. En la práctica esta nueva regla le beneficiará si usted:

  1.  Tiene una petición de familia I-130 aprobada y usted está dentro de los Estados Unidos;
  2.  Tiene una visa disponible;
  3. Entró a los Estados Unidos sin visa;
  4. Tiene un padre o cónyuge ciudadano o residente permanente que sufrirá un daño muy grande si a usted no le aprueban el perdón.  

Además, la regla expande el perdón provisional para incluir individuos con órdenes de deportación en ciertas circunstancias. Estos son cambios significativos y muy positivos para la práctica de los perdones de inmigración. La abogada Zulma Lopez tiene vasta experiencia en la preparación y aprobación de perdones de inmigración. Si usted cree que va a cualificar, llame hoy para una consulta. Estamos esperanzados que en la práctica estos cambios van a ayudar a miles de inmigrantes.

Recuerde que si usted tiene algún record criminal o si alguna vez lo ha detenido la policía, no debería radicar el perdón provisional sin antes consultar con un abogado experto en perdones de inmigración. Además, hay otras circunstancias que le pudieran afectar tales como tener múltiples entradas ilegales al país o haber entrado con sus hijos menores de edad. Su caso es único, no se arriesgue con un notario o un abogado que no tenga experiencia.

Tan pronto la regla tome efecto el 29 de agosto del 2016 actualizaremos nuestra página web para reflejar los cambios y darles más detalles de cómo en la práctica usted pudiera beneficiarse del perdón provisional y lograr su residencia permanente a los Estados Unidos. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Inmigración le pidió más pruebas en tres pasos

Tres pasos que debe tomar si inmigración le pidió más pruebas y evidencia:

Si usted recibió una carta de parte de inmigración que le pide más pruebas y evidencia antes de poder aprobar su solicitud de inmigración y usted se está preguntando qué hacer, siga los siguientes tres pasos:  

Pruebas de inmigración1) Tome nota de la fecha límite que tendrá para contestarle a inmigración. Este término puede variar entre 30 a 90 días. La importancia de esta fecha es que esta es su última oportunidad para satisfacerle a inmigración que usted cumple con todos los requisitos y que su solicitud debe ser aprobada. Generalmente no podrá pedir una prórroga o extensión de esta fecha, por lo que si no contesta perderá el dinero que pagó por su solicitud.

2) Lea cuidadosamente la carta para determinar qué exactamente es lo que inmigración le está pidiendo. La carta de inmigración estará dividida en secciones enumerando sus deficiencias y los documentos que usted deberá incluir con su contestación para satisfacer las mismas. En ocasiones, las deficiencias listadas pudieran parecer confusas, repetitivas o hasta contradictorias. NO deje de contestarle a inmigración aun cuando usted haya sometido la prueba que le están pidiendo y el requerimiento parezca repetitivo.

3) Consulte con su abogada. Su abogada le podrá ayudar a descifrar qué exactamente es lo que inmigración quiere de usted. En ocasiones, usted no tendrá el documento ideal para contestarle a inmigración pero un abogado le puede sugerir documentos alternos o preparar un affidavit que pueda satisfacer el requerimiento de inmigración y salvar su solicitud. ¡No espere hasta el último momento! Recopilar la información y documentos necesarios para contestar un requerimiento de pruebas toma tiempo. Llámenos hoy para una consulta. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

TN Visas for Canadians and Mexicans not subject to annual cap

Looking for alternatives to the H1B? TN Visas for Canadians and Mexicans are not subject to an annual cap, and therefore are available all year round. The TN visa was created as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). It provides for an employment, non-immigrant visa for those who qualify. Generally, TN Visas are available for Canadians and Mexicans citizens that:
  • have a bachelor’s degree and/or professional license in one of the listed eligible occupations specified by NAFTA;
  • have a professional assignment, or a prearranged full or part-time job in the United States;
  •  the professional assignment or job requires the NAFTA professional; and,
  •  the applicant have the qualifications to practice in the profession in question.

One of its particularities is that, as a non-immigrant visa, the applicant must show that he or she intends to leave the U.S. at the end of the professional assignment. TN Visas are granted for the duration of the job or assignment, or up to three years. Also, they may be extended past this original grant period. Think you may qualify for a TN Visa? Follow these steps:

TN Visa
Step One: If you are a Canadian or Mexican citizen, and are considering applying for a TN visa to come to the United States to work in your profession, the first thing you need to do is make sure that your profession qualifies for a TN Visa. There are over sixty professions recognized by NAFTA, including economist, social worker, physical therapist, registered nurse, and college teacher. NAFTA requires proof of various levels of education, credentials, and/or work experience depending on the profession. For a complete list of the TN Visa professions click here.

Step Two: Once you have identified your profession as eligible for a TN visa, you must determine whether you meet the educational and/or work experience required for such profession. For example, an architect will need to show proof of a baccalaureate or licenciatura degree or a State/provincial license, while most scientists (eg. Chemist) will need to show a college degree. There are also some professions that are highly scrutinized because they are deemed to be abused by U.S. employers. An example of this would be the management consultant professional. Also, professionals in the medical and health industry need to submit additional documents not required to the other professional categories.

Step Three: You must then prepare to show to immigration that your profession, along with your credentials, meet the duties and specifications of the job you intend to do in the United States. Your future employer should prepare a detailed Support Statement including your purpose of entry, duties, and length of stay.

How to apply for a TN Visa?
The process for applying for TN status depends on whether you are a Canadian or Mexican citizen. Generally, Canadian citizens may apply for TN status admission at a port of entry. Mexican citizens must first apply for a non-immigrant visa at the U.S. consulate abroad by filing Form DS-160, and attending an interview at the corresponding U.S. consulate in Mexico before seeking admission in TN status.

What documents should you include with the TN visa application?
  • Evidence of your Canadian or Mexican citizenship;
  • A valid passport;
  • A support letter from your future employer in the U.S.;
  • Evidence that you meet the professional qualifications;
  • Evidence that you intend to leave the U.S. at the end of the assignment or employment; and,
  • Resume and Experience letters are also good documents to support your credentials.

Conclusion: TN Visas are a great alternative to H1B Visas because they are not subject to an annual cap. If you are an employer looking for alternatives to hire a Canadian or Mexican citizen, or if you are a Canadian or Mexican professional with an employment opportunity in the U.S., consider applying for a TN Visa. Follow the steps explained above to see whether you meet the basic requirements or call us for a consultation. Filing for a TN Visa can be an overwhelming process. There are also plenty of potential pitfalls depending on your profession and the job you are seeking. Still have questions? Click here to read the full article on TN Visas

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Castigo de Inmigración por múltiples entradas sin visa.

En este artículo, me propongo explicarles en términos simples qué significa el castigo de inmigración por múltiples entradas en la frontera sin visa o documentos de admisión y dentro de un contexto específico. Esto significa que hay otros escenarios en que el castigo de inmigración le puede afectar y que no discutiré aquí. La razón que me motiva a escribir sobre este tema son dos consultas recientes que tuve en mi oficina. Por ser un tema complejo es mejor explicarlo usando un ejemplo, veamos:

José, un chico de diecinueve años, no tenía dinero ni asistencia económica para ir a la universidad en su país. Trabajaba largas horas en una fábrica por una paga mínima que apenas le daba para comer y pagar sus gastos. En el 1998 entró a los Estados Unidos sin visa y rápido comenzó a trabajar en la industria de la construcción. En el 2005, salió a su país a visitar a su mamá que estaba muy enferma y a la semana siguiente volvió a entrar por la frontera a los Estados Unidos. Un año más tarde conoció a su futura esposa, Jennifer, una americana. Hoy día en el 2016, José y Jennifer tienen dos hijos. Jennifer no trabaja y se queda en la casa cuidando a los niños. José sigue trabajando en la construcción dónde lo quieren mucho por su buen trabajo. José nunca ha sido arrestado, nunca ha usado un nombre falso y ha pagado sus impuestos al día. José y Jennifer están sentados frente a mí en su consulta y Jennifer expresa sentirse deseosa de comenzar el proceso de inmigración de José, ya que han esperado mucho tiempo ahorrando el dinero para contratar a un abogado.

Lo que Jennifer no sabe y está a punto de descubrir es que José está sujeto al castigo permanente de inmigración por tener múltiples entradas por la frontera y sin visa. La única forma de evadir este castigo es que José salga de los Estados Unidos por diez años. Pero cómo es esto posible, pregunta Jennifer, si yo soy una ciudadana estadounidense, hemos estado casado por diez años y tenemos dos hijos americanos? Qué tal si mis padres preparan una carta a favor de José, ellos lo quieren como si fuera su hijo? Qué tal si el jefe de José escribe una carta, él también lo quiere ayudar con su caso de inmigración? Nada de esto los puede ayudar.

Una de las modalidades del castigo de inmigración por múltiples entradas es que este castigo aplica en la siguiente forma:

Entrada ilegal a U.S. → estadía >1año → salida y regreso por la frontera = Castigo Permanente

Mis clientes usualmente se sorprenden al saber que este castigo permanente les aplica a su caso. En particular, los ciudadanos americanos no pueden concebir que sus adorados esposos o esposas sean penalizados tan crudamente por la ley de inmigración y que no haya nada que ellos puedan hacer para impedirlo. Así es como la familia de mi primera consulta se sintió cuando les dije que el castigo permanente aplicaba en su caso. Quedaron tristes y confundidos según iban aceptando la trágica noticia. Usted pensará que debe haber algo que se pueda hacer en este escenario, verdad?

Continuando con nuestro ejemplo hipotético, hay solo una posibilidad para José para sobrellevar este castigo permanente. José tendrá que salir de los Estados Unidos por diez años y al cabo de este tiempo, pedir un permiso a inmigración para que le dejen regresar. Este permiso solo se puede pedir cuando hayan transcurrido los diez años de José estar fuera de los Estados Unidos. Además, es discrecional para inmigración autorizar este permiso de entrada. Lo que significa que estar fuera por diez años no terminará el castigo por sí solo. José todavía tendrá que demostrarle a inmigración que tiene muchas cosas buenas a su favor, tales como una familia en los Estados Unidos y no tener un record criminal.

Este permiso de re-entrada es el que estoy trabajando con la familia de mi segunda consulta. Desafortunadamente esta pareja contrató un abogado que no les explicó las fatales consecuencias del castigo de inmigración por múltiples entradas ilegales. Este abogado les aconsejó que radicaran su caso de inmigración sin decirles que el esposo estaba sujeto al castigo de inmigración y que se quedaría fuera de los Estados Unidos por diez años! Desde ese entonces, la esposa americana ha visitado a su esposo cada cuatro meses por toda una década y han logrado mantener su matrimonio contra viento y marea.

Al reflexionar en estas dos familias y sus jornadas migratorias, les aconsejo que consulten con un abogado con experiencia en ley de inmigración. La ley de castigo de inmigración no está explicada en las formas de inmigración. Solo un abogado con experiencia le puede decir si el castigo le aplica a su caso o no. Además, el ejemplo anterior es solo una modalidad de las varias en las que otros castigos de inmigración aplican. No arriesgue su caso de inmigración y separarse de su familia. Llámenos hoy para una consulta. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Should you be worried about the Immigration “Permanent Bar"?

In this article, I will explain in simple terms what the immigration permanent bar looks like in a very specific context within family immigration. It is an ominous sentence that no family immigration lawyer wants to discuss with otherwise well-deserving families at their consultations. Two back-to-back recent consultations prompted this topic which is better discuss with an example. 

Jose, a nineteen year old, had no money or financial assistance to attend college in his home country. He worked long hours as a lumberjack for little pay that barely covered food and shelter expenses. In 1998, he came to the United States without a visa and was immediately hired by a construction company. In 2005, his mother became ill and he went back home to see her before her passing. He came back into the country a week later without a visa, and continued working with his same employer. A year later he met his future wife, Jennifer, an American citizen. It is now 2016, and Jose and Jennifer have two children. Jennifer is a stay-at-home mom, while Jose continues to work in construction where he is highly respected for his work ethic. Jose has never been arrested, has never used a fake name to work or otherwise, and has filed his taxes using his real name and tax Id. They are now sitting across from me and Jennifer is expressing how eager she is to finally file immigration papers for her husband after saving the money to hire an attorney. 

What Jennifer is about to find out is that Jose has an immigration permanent bar and the only way for him to overcome it is to leave the United States and his family for ten years. But how is this possible if I am a U.S. citizen and he has been my husband for ten years and we have two American children? How about my parents, they love Jose as if he were their son, they can write a letter in support of his case. How about if his boss writes a letter? His boss is a U.S. citizen and has his own construction company, and is willing to write to immigration in support of Jose, will that help? None of it will. 

One instance of this ill-conceived creature of an amendment to immigration law in 1997 is that the permanent bar will attach in the following context:

U.S. entry without a visa → stay in the U.S. >1year → depart U.S. and re-entry w/o visa = Permanent Bar

Families are typically stunned that this is how the immigration permanent bar applies to their case. In particular, American citizens cannot believe that their beloved husbands or wives could be penalized in such a way under our current immigration laws, and that there is nothing they can do about it. This is how the family at my first consultation felt when I explained to them how the permanent bar applied to them. They left teary-eyed, dazed and confused as reality slowly sunk in. But you may be thinking there must be a way to overcome this permanent bar in this scenario, right? This brings us to the ordeal the couple at my second consultation have endured, and the following questions they faced:

Is there an immigration waiver available for the Immigration Permanent Bar?
Does the Immigration permanent bar expire? Can it be pardoned or excused?

Continuing with our hypothetical example, there is only one way for Jose to overcome his immigration permanent bar. He will have to first leave the United States for 10 years, and then ask immigration permission to re-enter the U.S., but only after he has completed 10 years outside of the country. It is also entirely discretionary for immigration to approve this permission for re-entry. Which means that spending ten years outside of the U.S. is not enough to cure the immigration permanent bar. Jose will still have to show strong equities in his favor, such as having a family in the U.S. and the lack of a criminal record.  

These strong equities is what I am now preparing to show immigration in the case of the family from my second consultation. This couple hired an attorney who unfortunately did not understand the fatal consequences of the immigration permanent bar. He wrongly advised them to move forward with their immigration petition without telling them that the husband was going to be penalized by being stuck outside of the U.S. for ten years! Since then, the American citizen wife has traveled every four months to see her husband abroad for the past decade, and they have miraculously kept their relationship strong against all adversity. 

As I reflect on these two well-deserving families and their immigration journeys, I encourage you to consult with a knowledgeable attorney before filing any family immigration petition. The permanent bar is nowhere explained in the free downloadable immigration forms you find online. Moreover, this is not the only context in which the permanent bar or other immigration bars apply. Only an experienced immigration attorney will be able to tell you whether you have triggered the permanent bar or other immigration bars, and what is the best course of action based on your particular circumstances. Call us today.  

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Three steps before applying for your citizenship

This election cycle has prompted a surge in permanent residents wanting to apply for citizenship to be able to vote in the November 2016 presidential election. I have seen this with my clients, and my colleagues nationwide are seeing the same with their clients. The citizenship process can take six months or more to complete from the time of filing your application to your citizenship oath ceremony. If you have been considering becoming a United States citizen to participate in this year’s general election, time is running short. Don’t wait any longer and file your citizenship application today. Learn more about the citizenship application requirements here

Now, in this article, I want to discuss the three steps you should take before applying for citizenship if you have a criminal record. The motivation for this article is a consultation I had recently with a family who had already filed their citizenship applications on their own, but were concerned about a prior criminal conviction their son had after he became a permanent resident. I cannot stress enough how important it is to evaluate criminal convictions before filing any immigration application. Criminal arrests or convictions have the potential of hurting your immigration status even at this late stage of your immigration journey. You not only risk getting your citizenship denied, but could also be even put in removal proceedings and deported for filing an untimely citizenship application. Follow these three steps before applying for citizenship if you have a criminal record: 

1) Get your background check: You can get a state background check by taking your fingerprints at a police station, or you can request your FBI background check by mail. There are also private companies that can take your fingerprints and produce your background check for a fee. Be mindful that once you file for citizenship, you will have to provide your fingerprints to immigration so that immigration can run its own background check. Also know that no matter how old an arrest or conviction is, it will show on your record and it could potentially affect your immigration status, or even your permanent residency. How about if you paid the fines, completed the community service and finished your probation? Your conviction will still be a conviction for immigration purposes and could negatively impact your citizenship application. Arrests and convictions do not disappear from your record just because you paid the fines and completed the conditions of your sentence. Also, the definition of what constitutes a conviction is different in an immigration context. Even a first offender plea that may have later been expunged for state purposes will still be considered a conviction for immigration purposes. It is your responsibility to be diligent when filing for citizenship to avoid a denial or even worse be put in deportation proceedings. Do not be dismissive of any prior criminal arrests or convictions, get your background check first. If you feel intimidated by going to a police station to get your fingerprints done, or if you are unsure how to go about getting your fingerprints, call us today

2) Get final court dispositions or sentences of all your arrests or convictions: One of the requirements to become a United States citizen is that you have to prove that you have been a person of good moral character for the applicable time-period (three to five years). However, an immigration officer may consider arrests or convictions outside of this period when reviewing your application. This is why is so important to get your complete criminal history, and evaluate how each incident on your record could potentially affect your immigration status. Once you get your criminal background check results, you will be able to tell exactly where were you arrested and which court decided your case. With this information you can easily locate those final court dispositions or sentences, which are crucial in evaluating whether you should move forward with a citizenship application. Why is this so important? Because even if you were convicted of a misdemeanor, that conviction could be deemed as a serious offense under immigration law. Lastly, if you are on probation, you will have to complete all the terms of your probation before you can become a citizen. 

3) Consult with an Attorney: An attorney consultation could save you from making a fatal mistake of filing an untimely citizenship application, and exposing yourself to a potential deportation for a past criminal conviction. An attorney can also offer you viable alternatives on how to deal with a criminal past incident and to ameliorate its immigration consequences. For example, if your conviction is more than five years old, you could potentially submit rehabilitating evidence with your application and at your interview showing that you should be considered a person of good moral character. In the case of the young man at my consultation, we are preparing to show that he is now in college, works, actively participates in his community, and has not had another instance of criminal conduct not even traffic violations for the past five years. Only a qualified attorney would be able to tell if you should file for citizenship after evaluating the proper documents from the court or arresting office. 

In conclusion, if you have a criminal record be careful when filing for citizenship. Follow the above three steps before you send your citizenship application to make an informed decision whether it is time to become a United States citizen.