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    Curious About VAWA in Chicago? Here’s an Introduction to the Violence Against Women Act

    What to Do if You Are Threatened with Deportation in Chicago

    What U.S. Immigration Reform Could Mean for Chicago Immigrants

    Obtaining a Work Visa in the United States to Work in Chicago

    Applying for Asylum in the United States and the Laws Behind It for Chicago

    E2 Visa Law for Foreign Entrepreneurs in Chicago

    Understanding EB-5 Law for Immigration in Chicago

    VAWA for Men

    Adjustment of Status

    Overstayed Your Visa

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    Chicago Immigration & Naturalization Law Blog

    Curious About VAWA in Chicago? Here’s an Introduction to the Violence Against Women Act

    By admin, LLC on July 24, 2014

    The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was initially passed in 1994 as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act and signed into law by United States President Bill Clinton. The law faced a legislative upheaval over the next decade, during which certain provisions were struck down and reauthorized. If you or someone you know is a victim of abuse, it is important to know your rights and seek appropriate help from a legal office.
    Who Is Eligible

    In spite of the name for this law, the VAWA is not exclusive to women only. The law has protected men since its inception, although men are generally less likely to report domestic abuse. In 2013, President Barack Obama signed a reauthorization of the bill that was all-inclusive. This updated version of the law provided equal protection for gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals, as well as Native Americans and immigrants.

    You may qualify to file a petition under the VAWA if you are:
    • A man or woman abused by a spouse who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident
    • A spouse whose children are abused by anyone
    • A parent abused by your child
    • A child abused by your parent or other individual

    What is Covered
    The details of the VAWA cover a wide range of services to which individuals may have access. They include, but are not limited to:
    • Violence prevention programs in your community
    • Protection for individuals evicted from their homes due to domestic violence
    • Victim assistance services and hotlines
    • Assistance for victims with disabilities
    • Special programs for immigrants and specific ethnicities
    • Legal assistance programs for victims of domestic violence
    • Identity protection inside and outside of court

    These services can be further elaborated on by a qualified legal office or other emergency assistance personnel. Legal and undocumented immigrants may qualify for asylum. This is a legal means of staying in the United States to avoid any type of persecution in another country.

    When to Seek Help
    Those who are facing deportation or are seeking asylum should contact someone immediately. Unauthorized immigrants can be victims of gender-motivated exploitation upon entering the country, while working, or in their own homes. This problem is exacerbated when the individual depends on another for financial support or legal status. Nobody should suffer in silence or face this process alone.

    Abuse is often not well-documented because victims fear retaliation. If you or someone you know needs help with legal counsel under the Violence Against Women Act, contact a qualified attorney. A lawyer will listen carefully to you and explain all of your options.
    In many cases, a U Visa is an option. This legal document allows an individual to live and work in the United States without fear of deportation while assisting in the investigation and prosecution of a criminal case. If specific qualifications are met, this document is valid for up to four years and can be extended when the criminal case is still be conducted.


    What to Do if You Are Threatened with Deportation in Chicago

    By admin, LLC on July 22, 2014

    Immigration has become a controversial topic in the United States, and many people are unsure about what could happen to them. Others may choose to prey on this insecurity, threatening deportation if the individual does not comply with certain demands. However, a person cannot simply have another deported. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a branch of Homeland Security, is responsible for handling this process, and many factors go into the decision. If you or a loved one has been threatened with deportation, knowing what you can do is the first step.

    1. Do Not Respond to Threats.
    Persons who entered the country legally may be threatened by an employer, a spouse, or a stranger posing as someone with the power to remove them from the country.
    When an individual enters the country legally through the guest worker program, he or she receives the appropriate paperwork. However, many employers take these documents for safekeeping and later refuse to return them. If the individual loses that job – either by leaving or being fired – he or she can be deported.
    Often strangers posing as IRS agents or other government entities may call and ask for personal information over the phone. Government business is generally done through the mail and personal information like social security numbers and bank account details should never be given out over the phone.
    If you have been threatened with deportation by anyone, it is important not to respond to them. Each case must be weighed on an individual basis. It is important to know your rights and seek appropriate legal advice.

    2. Know Your Rights.
    Everyone in the United States has rights that are protected by the Constitution. Before determining whether an individual is to be deported, he or she must receive a court date and appear before an immigration judge. The case will be fairly assessed and follow due process. Individuals will be represented by an attorney and given opportunity to plead the case for remaining in the country.
    If a person has reasonable expectation that he or she will not be safe upon returning to the home country, he or she may be permitted to stay. Additionally, if an employer has broken the law, that will also be taken into consideration. There are several other factors that can affect an immigration case. The goal of the government is to deport those who have committed crimes and pose a potential threat to the United States.

    3. Seek Help from a Lawyer.
    If you or someone you know has been threatened with deportation, it is important to seek assistance from a lawyer. Contact a law firm that specializes in this field. An immigration attorney is experienced in these situations and can provide the assistance needed. Your case will be heard on an individual basis before a final decision is made. According to the law, persons who cannot afford to hire a lawyer will be provided one by the government for their immigration case.


    What U.S. Immigration Reform Could Mean for Chicago Immigrants

    By admin, LLC on July 17, 2014

    Immigration reform in the United States has been a controversial topic for several years. Through multiple presidential administrations, the government has attempted to change policies to raise the rate of legal immigration, and at the same time, lower the rate of illegal immigration. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 made it illegal to hire illegal immigrants. Further reforms were passed in 2005 and 2006 and in recent years, individual states have attempted to create their own policies. As the issue comes to a head, it is important for those affected to understand what this means and when they should seek help from an immigration attorney.

    Immigration Reform
    The White House website breaks down current President Barack Obama’s immigration reform plan into four basic proposals. The first is to strengthen border security by giving local law enforcement officers the tools they need to reduce crime and apprehend individuals who pose a threat to the country. The second point is streamlining legal immigration. This would include offering work visas to foreign business owners, graduate students studying math and science, and family members of citizens.
    The third point is to create a path to earned citizenship for those who qualify. Undocumented immigrants would have a legal way to become citizens through a multiple-step process. The fourth and final point in this proposal is that of streamlining the legal immigration system. This would establish a simple policy for legal immigration that can be followed by anyone who meets the requirements.
    Before an immigration reform bill passes and becomes law, the policy is likely to change many times. It must pass in both the Senate and the House of Representatives before being signed by the president.

    Possible Outcomes
    If proposed legal immigration reform policies are passed, it will affect an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. For many, the future remains uncertain. The bill creates a path to citizenship that may take an average of 13 years to complete.
    Immigrants on the path to citizenship will need to meet a number of requirements. Before applying, it is a requirement to be able to speak, read, and write English. Applicants must demonstrate fluency or be enrolled in appropriate classes. Immigrants will also need to provide documentation of their activities for the past number of years. This includes paperwork on where they have lived and worked. Bank statements and school records will also be admissible.

    When to Seek Help
    Planning ahead is the wisest course of action, even when the future is uncertain. People can take action now by gathering information and keeping good records. Officials warn of potential scam artists posing as immigration companies before reform has passed. Each individual will receive a day in court that includes due process procedures. For minor children, this includes representation by an appointed advocate. If you or someone you know may be affected by the passing of U.S. immigration reform, it is important to seek legal assistance from a qualified, licensed immigration attorney.


    Obtaining a Work Visa in the United States to Work in Chicago

    By admin, LLC on July 15, 2014

    For foreign nationals who are interested in finding work in the United States, the process of obtaining a work visa can be both complicated and competitive. The number of employment-based immigration visas that are granted during the course of each year changes based o United States immigration law, though the average number hovers at around 140,000.  One of the most challenging aspects of the process lies in identifying exactly which of the five categories of temporary nonimmigrant visa you need. The different classifications are based upon the type of work that you are qualified to do.


    In order to apply for an immigrant visa, it is first necessary to have your prospective employer apply for approval of labor certification from the United States Department of Labor. Once this is approved the employer must file an I-40 form, which is an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker.  This is true for every category of worker other than for those who are in the first preference category, those with extraordinary capabilities.


    The five different categories of employees that can apply for immigrant visas are:


    • E1 – Priority Workers

    This group is made up of three separate categories, including those with extraordinary abilities in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics; those who are outstanding professors and researchers; and those who are multinational managers or executives who have worked for at least one of the previous three years for an overseas affiliate of a U.S. employer in a managerial or executive capacity.


    • E2 – Professionals Holding Advanced Degrees and Persons of Exceptional Ability

    This group is made up of two separate categories, including those with an advanced degree or a baccalaureate plus five years in the profession, or persons who have exceptional ability in the sciences, arts or business.


    • E3 – Skilled Workers, Professionals and Unskilled Workers

    This group is made up of three separate subcategories, including skilled workers whose jobs require at least two years of training or work experience, professionals whose jobs require at least a baccalaureate degree from a United States university or the foreign equivalent; and unskilled workers capable of filling positions that do not require specialized training or experience, but whose work is neither temporary or seasonal


    • E4 – Certain Special Immigrants

    This group has many subcategories, including broadcasters, religious leaders, employees or former employees of the U.S. government, and many others.


    • E5 – Immigrant Investors

    This group represents those who have made capital investments into businesses in the United States which will create jobs for United States workers.


    Each category of applicant must gain approval of their petition from the USCIS, who then sends the petition to the National Visa Center (NVC) where a case number will be assigned. Upon notification from the NVC the applicant will complete Form DS-261, Choice of Address and Agency and will pre-process the case, instructing the applicant to pay the appropriate fees. Once paid, the NVC instructs the applicant to provide the documents necessary to process the case.



    Applying for Asylum in the United States and the Laws Behind It for Chicago

    By admin, LLC on July 8, 2014

    The United States lead the world in the number of applications it receives and approves for asylum. Though the number of applicants that are permitted entrance can change each year, those who seek this type of refuge account for approximately ten percent of the country’s total annual immigration, and since World War II there have been more than two million refuges accepted.


    The laws that have enabled and defined U.S. asylum as well as the procedures that it entails are the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, which together define what a refugee is, and the Refugee Act of 1980 which was passed by the United States Congress, and which both reconfirmed the already existing definitions and established the Office of Refugee Resettlement with the United States Department of Health and Human Services.


    In order to apply and qualify for asylum in the United States a citizen of another country must prove that they have a “reasonable fear” of being a victim persecution in their own country in the future. That fear does not have to be absolute – in fact, and applicant can indicate that their fear is as minimal as having a ten to fifteen percent likelihood of persecution, and still qualify for asylum.  The applicant also needs to be able to show that the persecution that they fear would happen if they returned to their home country. This can be established by demonstrating past persecution. Disproving the existence of the possibility of persecution can only be proven by showing that either a) the circumstances in the person’s home country have changed substantially or that b) they could live in a different region of their country without having the same fear. Persecution is generally defined or interpreted on an individual basis.


    The final requirement of asylum law in the United States is that the persecution is based upon one or more of several specific factors. These factors may be the person’s race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a specific social group. If the person is in fear of persecution for more than one of these factors, they must select one as the primary reason for their fear. It also must be shown that the persecution that they fear is being perpetrated by either the government of their country, or a group that the government has proven unable or unwilling to exercise control over.


    There are certain factors that can preclude asylum being granted. These include having been convicted of an aggravated felony, support of a terrorist group or having assisted in persecuting another person or group of people. People may also be barred from asylum if they could have chosen to reside in a country other than the United States before coming to this country, if they waited ore than a year for applying for asylum, or if they have previously had an application for asylum denied.


    E2 Visa Law for Foreign Entrepreneurs in Chicago

    By admin, LLC on July 1, 2014

    The E-2 Visa is a special visa that the United States makes available to entrepreneurs from countries with which the United States has established specific treaties. The program extends beyond the entrepreneur themselves to their spouses and unmarried children, as well as any key employees that they wish to employ.  The goal of the program is to encourage foreign investment in the United States by residents of these countries, and creating jobs for U. S. workers.


    The E-2 Visa has been called the next best thing to having permanent residence in the United States. This is in part due to the fact that the law enables people to obtain the E2 status via self-employment, and in part because it allows an unlimited number of extensions to the period of time that you can remain in the United States. In addition to those benefits, the E-2 also has the advantage of not falling under any annual limit criteria for how many applications can be approved.


    Under the rules governing the E-2 Visa, the foreign investor must have made a substantial cash investment in order to allow them or other citizens of their country (which must have a standing treaty with the United States) to obtain one of these visa. The investor and his employees are only permitted to work within that business, and the visas are good for up to five years and have unlimited extensions. Some businesses may be good for a shorter period of time, depending upon the business itself, as well as the agreement that exists between the United States and the investor’s country. Workers and family members who come to the United States under the agreement may stay for up to two years and then extend their stay beyond that period of time, and spouses may apply for work permits.


    In order to qualify for an E-2 visa, an applicant must meet six specific requirements. They are:


    • They must be a citizen of a country with which the United States has established a relevant treaty.
    • They must be coming with the intention of working for a company in which they or somebody from their country of origin has a minimum of a 50% investment.
    • They must be either the investor/owner or a key employee of the business.
    • The investor or company must be able to prove a substantial investment in the U.S. business in which they or their employees will be working. Substantial is interpreted as having funds at risk, with a goal of making a profit and the amount should be appropriate to the type of business that it represents.
    • The company has to be an ongoing concern that is engaged in commercial activities. The goal of this rule is that the investment in the company should  be creating jobs for United States workers, and not simply to support the investor and the employees for whom E-2 Visas are secured.
    • The applicants must provide proof or some indication of an intent to leave the United States and return to their country of origin when their business or employment is completed.


    Understanding EB-5 Law for Immigration in Chicago

    By admin, LLC on June 24, 2014

    In the midst of the immigration debate that is going on in the United States, it is often forgotten that there are several paths to citizenship that are readily available to those who live outside of the country but who want to attain permanent resident status. One route is via the EB-5 process, which offers permanent United States residency to foreign investors. Though the disadvantage of EB-5 is that a large amount of readily available cash, either $1 million or $500,000 depending upon the investment that is being made, is necessary, the advantage is that there is no quota or waiting list involved, and the path is both expedition and clearly defined.


    The EB-5 law makes it possible for foreign investors, their spouse and their unmarried children under the age of 21 to become full United States citizens within five years of obtaining permanent United States residency. The program entails four easy-to-understand steps. They are:


    • Identify and select an EB-5 project. 
    • Provide the capital investment and file an I-526 application
    • Complete a two-year conditional permanent residency period
    • Remove the conditional status and complete an I-829 petition


    Let’s look at each of these steps individually.


    Identify and select an EB-5 project


    An EB-5 project represents an investment in a commercial enterprise that will employ no less than ten full-time U.S. workers. If the program is of the investor’s choosing, the minimum investment is $1 million dollars, though if it selected in a rural area or an area where there is high unemployment, that investment requirement may be reduced to $500,000. There are specific pre-approved projects called “regional centers” that already have government approval and which generally require only the lower investment amount. At the end of two years the investor is required to provide proof that the ten jobs were created and that the funding is still invested in the project.  A critical part of this step is providing information as to the source of the funding.


    Provide the capital investment and file an I-526 application


    Once a project has been selected, the applicant must make the required investment, often into an escrow account. The applicant’s must then file an I-526 application with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) providing proof of the investment. These applications are generally accepted or denied within a 12 to 18 month period. If the application is denied, the initial investment is generally refunded.


    Complete a two-year conditional permanent residency period


    There is a minimum two-year conditional permanent residency period required for the purpose of implementing the investment project. Once the I-526 has been approved investors who have lawful status in the United States can file a form I-485 in order to adjust their status. Those without lawful status can submit form DS-230 to the National Visa Center in order to obtain an immigrant visa.


    Remove the conditional status and complete an I-829 petition


    The final step is removal of the conditional status and replacing it with the status of unconditional permanent resident. This can be achieved by filing an I-829 petition 90 days before the anniversary of the establishment of conditional residency, and is an indication that all of the requirements of the EB-5 program have been met.


    VAWA for Men

    By admin, LLC on June 19, 2014

    The Violence Against Women Act is legislation that was first introduced by Joe Biden when he was acting in his capacity as Senator of the state of Delaware. Four years after the bill was drafted it was signed into law by President Bill Clinton, and nineteen years later it was reauthorized. This federal law enables investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women. It also establishes specific punishments on those who have been convicted and allows victims to seek redress against their attackers in cases when a criminal case is not prosecuted. It also established a government office within the Department of Justice to regulate and oversee this area.

    The Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA as it is commonly known, may seem like a straightforward bill for all to support, regardless of political affiliation, but it is not without its critics. One of the most commonly voiced objections to the bill is that it has too strong a gender bias. Politicians and advocates from both sides of the political aisle have objected to the idea that the law only protects women, since men can also be victims of both sexual assault and domestic violence, and often at the hands of women. The question that has been raised is whether or not the Violence Against Women Act is a violation of men’s 14th Amendment right to equal protection under the law.

    Opponents of the VAWA are quick to say that the bill may be intended to help women, but may be harming men in the process, but in answer to that accusation, the bill’s defenders say that the law is gender neutral. Now-Vice President Joe Biden said in 2005, “The reality is that the vast majority of victims of domestic violence are women and children, and most outreach organizations take those demographics into consideration when providing services. … The bottom line is – violence is violence no matter what gender the victim is. Because of that, the Violence Against Women Act applies to all victims of domestic violence, irrespective of their gender. Nothing in the act denies services, programs, funding or assistance to male victims of violence.”

    One of the more interesting aspects of the arguments against the Violence Against Women Act came in the context of its use by immigrant women seeking a way of getting American citizenship. Many American citizens have faced fraudulent allegations of abuse from immigrant partners who have been characterized as scam artists seeking an easy way to citizenship in the United States. The VAWA enabled victims of abuse to seek immigration relief, even if they are in the country illegally. Immigrant women married to American men are also able to petition for green cards based on their husbands’ abuse. Critics say that women are falsifying statements in order to take advantage of this benefit. For this reason, many people campaigned against the renewal of protections of the VAWA as they applied to immigrant women. The bill was eventually passed with expanded protections provided to immigrants, Native Americans, gays, lesbians and transgendered persons.


    Adjustment of Status

    By admin, LLC on June 12, 2014

    Adjustment of Status refers to a specific procedure that enables a non-immigrant visa holder who is physically in the United States to apply to become a lawful permanent resident of the United States without having to return to their home country to apply for an immigrant visa. This process is also known as applying for a green card and means that they convert to immigrant status. Suitability for this adjustment can be based on a number of different factors including your employment with an employer or your close relationship with a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident. When going through the process, the applicant’s ability to become a permanent resident is based on factors including their finances, their health, where they are going to live, their family status, and their political or criminal background.

    The elements that make a non-immigrant eligible to adjust to immigrant status include being present in the United States legally and seeking the adjusted status due to family needs, employment, being part of a humanitarian program or other special needs. Pursuing this adjustment generally requires that a petition be filed on your behalf by either a family member or employer. This petition can be filed at the same time as the application for adjustment of status or beforehand.

    In addition to needing to have the proper paperwork and meeting eligibility requirements, those seeking an adjustment of status need to ensure that visas are available within the category that they fall under. These visas are generally limited. Applicants must submit to being photographed and fingerprinted so that security background checks can be completed, and may be asked to submit to an interview. After these steps are accomplished, the applicant will be notified in writing as to whether they have received approval or not.

    Though many people believe that applying for adjustment of status is a simple process, it is important to remember that approval of the application is not a given based simply on availability and meeting general criteria such as having a job or getting married to an American citizen The decision about status is discretionary, and can be affected by record of previous negative behaviors including prior immigration law violations or criminal problems that have not led to convictions and are therefore do not exclude admissibility. These conditions are referred to as bars to adjustment status, and fall into four categories. They are:

    • Failure to maintain continuous lawful status
    • Absence of lawful nonimmigrant status
    • Engagement in unauthorized employment
    • Violation of the terms of a nonimmigrant visa

    There are limitations on these bars that relieve immediate relatives of United States citizens, as well as battered spouses and children of United States citizens and other special immigrant circumstances. Knowing your rights and the particular steps that are needed in order to maximize your chance of achieving approval of your application for adjustment of status is important, and having an experienced immigration attorney representing you often provides your best chances for success.


    Overstayed Your Visa

    By admin, LLC on June 5, 2014

    Though there was once a time when those entering the United States were able to overstay their visa with little or not repercussions, those days are long gone. Today, when a person in the country on a nonimmigrant visa overstays their allowable time, they can be subject to a great deal of negative attention and penalties. Reforms were passed in 1996 that meant that those who overstayed a visa could still adjust their status if they paid a fine and were able to apply for asylum and other benefits, That is no longer the case.

    A person who has overstayed their visa is any nonimmigrant that stays in the United States beyond the time that they are authorized to be there. Under the 1996 reform, a person who has overstayed may be barred from returning to the country for a period ranging from three years to ten years, depending upon the length of their overstay. They may be restricted from extending their stay or changing their status and their visa will be voided. It will be unlikely that they will be able to obtain a new visa unless it is issued by the country of their nationality.

    Because the United States now operates on an automated system, monitoring of those who are in the country on a visa is much more precise then it once was. In order to avoid the penalties and negative repercussions of overstaying your visa, check its expiration date regularly. In order to comply with the law you must be out of the United States on or before your visa expires in order to be in compliance unless you have had an extension of stay or change of status or have one that has been filed in a timely manner and is awaiting approval or notification of status.

    It is also important that when you do depart, you collect all of the documentation that is pertinent to and can prove that you left the country. Examples of documentation would include having your passport stamped as entering another country. Airline tickets and boarding passes will work as well.

    Overstaying your visa may seem at first glance like a minor infraction, the it is in reality an issue that can harm you in the long run. As soon as your visa expires, you are officially unlawfully present in the United States. If this status persists for more than 180 days but less than a year and then you voluntarily leave the United States, you will be barred from reentering for a period of not less than three years. If your overstay extends beyond a period of a year then you will be barred from readmission for ten years.

    No matter how long your overstay, once you have achieved the status of being unlawfully present, you will be required to leave the United States in order to get a new visa before you can re-enter, and whatever point that will be.

    For help on ascertaining your status and finding the best solution, contact an experienced immigration attorney today.


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