Who can benefit from the President’s recent Executive Orders?
If you would like to apply for some benefits under President Obama’s new deportation relief programs, proceed with caution. The President recently announced that his administration will extend deportation relief and offer work permits to up to five million immigrants who entered the country illegally or overstayed a visa. The applications for the new programs will not be released until April, 2015, so it is too early for anyone to apply. The President’s Executive Orders will extend deportation relief to an estimated 3.7 million parents of children with U.S. citizenship or permanent residency. Another 1.5 million individuals could be eligible for a program aimed at helping people brought to the U.S. as children. Successful applicants will be granted a renewable three-year work permit, with no path to permanent residency.
Once the application process begins, prospective applicants should consult a lawyer to make sure they meet eligibility requirements, and to discuss any other related concerns that they may have. Although the applications will not be available for a few months more, people interested in deportation relief can do certain things now to get ready. Since an applicant will need to prove his or her residence in the United States, the prospective applicant should assemble prior leases, credit card bills, utility bills, wage statements, and tax returns (even if they were filed using a different name or Social Security number).
How can I live and work in the United States?
U.S. immigration laws are often complex. In some cases, a person can immigrate permanently to the United States through sponsorship by a close family member or employer. In other cases, a person may be able to come to the country temporarily on a nonimmigrant visa that permits him or her to work here (see our Practice Area on nonimmigrant visas). In most cases, sponsorship by a close relative (husband, wife, adult child, parent, or sibling), employer, or agent is required. There are limited options for self-sponsorship, for certain investors and highly talented individuals, but in general, self-sponsorship is not an option. These options should be explored at the time of your initial consultation with an experienced immigration attorney.
How does the immigration process work?
Numerous U.S. government agencies have jurisdiction over the immigration laws. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is responsible for adjudicating applications and petitions for immigration benefits. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has jurisdiction over people who are attempting to enter the United States at our border crossings, airports, and ports. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is charged with enforcing the immigration laws. USCIS, CBP and ICE are all part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The Department of State handles applications for immigrant and nonimmigrant visas at U.S. consulates. The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), part of the Department of Justice, has jurisdiction over removal proceedings. It is common for more than one of these agencies to be involved in a single case.
For example, in family immigration cases for relatives abroad, the USCIS will adjudicate the initial visa petition, and then forward it to the National Visa Center (NVC), which in turn will send it to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the relative’s country. The immigrant visa interview will take place in the relative’s country.
Further, almost all immigration matters require extensive paperwork. Petitions and applications must be filled out with precision. Supporting evidence must be gathered and attached to the particular petition or application. Because there are often two or more governmental agencies involved in a single immigration process, each with its own regulations, procedures and forms, no two immigration cases are alike. The role of the attorney in these cases is to aid the client in understanding and navigating the system, to provide the client with realistic expectations, and to make sure that the client, or his or her relative, is 100% ready the day of the interview or the Immigration Court hearing.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement has arrested and detained my relative? What rights does he/she have? What can I do?
A person facing deportation generally has a right to a hearing before an Immigration Judge and to have a lawyer represent him or her in court. In cases involving an arrest and detention, a person may be eligible for release on a bond or supervised monitoring. After a person is detained, ICE will make the initial determination whether he or she is eligible for release and, if so, the amount of bond. This determination is usually subject to review by an Immigration Judge, who has the authority to change the amount of bond, or take it away entirely. In some cases however, the “mandatory detention” provisions of the law will require ICE to detain the person, without the right to request a bond, until the Immigration Judge makes a final decision on the person’s removal case.
Because detention and custody issues can be complicated, it is advisable to have an experienced attorney represent the detained person. In some cases, an attorney can negotiate a change in the custody determination directly with the ICE Officer assigned to the case. In a bond hearing before an Immigration Judge, an attorney can prepare the necessary evidence, try to negotitate a good outcome with the ICE attorney, and address the legal issues that invariably arise in such hearings.