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Monthly Archives: December 2018

Is It Possible to Abandon or Lose Your Permanent Resident Status?

By Peek & Toland on December 24, 2018

There are circumstances under which you can lose your permanent resident status. One of these circumstances is related to conditional permanent resident status, which is typically based on marriage or a qualifying investment. If, for example, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) later discovers that a marriage was fraudulent, they have the right to terminate your conditional permanent resident status.

 

Permanent Resident Status

If you are placed in deportation proceedings and an immigration court judge issues a final order of removal for you, then you also will lose your permanent resident status. For instance, if you are convicted of an aggravated felony or a crime of moral turpitude, you may be placed in removal proceedings. If the judge orders you removed following a hearing, then you are subject to losing your immigration status.

You also can intentionally abandon your permanent resident status in some cases. This might occur in the following circumstances:

·         You move to another country and intend to reside there permanently.

·         You remain outside of the U.S. for an extended period of time, unless you intend your absence to be temporary, as shown by:

o   The reason for your trip

o   How long you intend to be absent from the U.S.

o   Other circumstances related to your absence

o   Events that may have prolonged your absence (health problems, deaths, etc.)

o   Obtaining a reentry permit from USCIS before leaving (good for up to two years)

o   Obtaining SB-1 returning resident visa from a U.S. consulate while abroad

·         Failing to file income tax returns while living outside of the U.S. for any reason

·         Declaring yourself a nonimmigrant on your U.S. income tax returns

·         Choose to abandon your status and voluntarily surrender your green card for any reason

The Peek & Toland immigration lawyers are here to assist you with all of your immigration needs. Trust us to represent your interests and advise you of the best course of action in your situation. Set up an appointment to talk to us today and discover how we can assist you with your immigration case.

Posted in Uncategorized

Changes to Health Examinations for Legal Immigrants

By Peek & Toland on December 23, 2018

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has implemented some changes to the health examination process for legal immigrants. This exam is required as evidence that an immigrant is not inadmissible to the country due to some health-related condition.

First, as of October 1, 2018, USCIS will no longer accept the tuberculin skin test (TST) as part of the required I-693 Form Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record. Now, all applicants who are age two and older will be required to undergo a TB blood test or the initial TB screening method. USCIS cautions that this new requirement will result in an increase in the price of the medical exam and a processing time of four to five business days, as opposed two days.

 

Changes to Health Examinations for Legal Immigrants

Next, effective November 1, 2018, a completed Form I-693 will remain valid for a maximum period of two years from the date of the civil surgeon’s signature on the form, as long as the surgeon signs the form 60 days before the date on which the applicant files his or her application for an immigration benefit with USCIS. Prior to this date, Form I-693 only was valid for one year, which resulted in applicants sometimes having to obtain another medical exam due to long wait times for the processing of their applications. In particular, long wait times for adjustment of status applications have caused the expiration of medical exams in many cases. The hope is that the change will eliminate the time and money necessary to obtain an additional exam. Nonetheless, the USCIS examiner still have the discretion to request updated medical information from applicants as needed.

The immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland have the experience and knowledge that are necessary to represent your interests when you are dealing with an immigration law issue. We are here to gather the necessary information on your behalf and develop the best strategy for achieving your goals. Take the first step by contacting us today and learning what we can do to help.

Posted in Visas

Immigrant Deportation Filings Hit High in 2018

By Peek & Toland on December 22, 2018

According to a recent CBS news report, federal immigration courts have ordered a record high number of immigrants removed from the United States in federal fiscal year 2018. When the fiscal year ended on September 30, 2018, immigration courts had ordered 287,741 deportations. These statistics were compiled by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse of Syracuse University (TRAC), through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). TRAC further reported that this was the highest number of deportations since it began tracking these statistics in 1992.

Immigrants Deportation Filings Hit High in 2018

A full 42.5% of the new deportations were based on “entry without inspection.” This category covers any immigrants without lawful status found in the U.S. who did not declare themselves present to U.S. immigration authorities. In contrast, just over 5% of the deportations were based upon the commission of aggravated felonies by immigrants, and 1.3% were based on possible terrorist ties. Statistics also showed that 73,339 or 26% of the immigrants newly ordered deported were from Mexico. Nearly half of the newly ordered deportations involved Central Americans coming from Guatemala, El Salvador, and the Honduras.

Texas immigration courts were the largest source of new deportation orders in federal fiscal year 2018, with over 60,000 new removals. Since 2008, Texas immigration courts have consistently produced the highest number of new removals each year.

Immigration advocates attribute the higher rate of deportations to not only increased immigration enforcement, but also to an executive order that greatly increased the number of immigrants eligible for immediate deportation, which is an expedited removal process with far less protections for immigrants. The same order barred sanctuary cities, although courts later ruled that portion of the order to be unconstitutional, and vastly expanded the criteria for deportation, which made just about every immigrant present in the U.S. deportable. As a result, the order eliminated the priority system that the Obama administration previously had put in place, which highly prioritized the deportation of immigrants who had committed crimes.

At Peek & Toland, we care about helping you obtain the visa that you need, based on your situation. We will focus our efforts on advocating on your behalf and representing your interests throughout the immigration process. Our knowledgeable immigration lawyers know the best strategies for gathering documentation to support your goals. Allow us to handle your immigration law case by sitting down with us today and discussing your situation.

Posted in Immigration

Ninth Circuit Affirms Injunction that Bars Cessation of DACA

By Peek & Toland on December 21, 2018

Immigration advocates and other interested parties continue to challenge the Trump administration’s efforts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in ongoing litigation, which is currently before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Most recently, the Court upheld the injunction of the federal district court barring the federal government from ending the DACA program. The Court also affirmed the partial grant and partial denial of the government’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.

In its opinion, the Court held that neither the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) nor the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) barred judicial review of the administration’s decision to end the DACA program. The APA did not bar review of the decision because the Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) based its rescission of DACA on a belief that the DACA program was beyond the authority of DHS. Therefore, the DHS decision is subject to review by the courts.

                         Ninth Circuit Affirms Injunction that Bars Cessation of DACA

Similarly, the Court rejected the government’s argument that 8 U.S.C. § 1252(g) precludes judicial review of any agency action or decision to commence proceedings, adjudicate cases, or execute removal orders. The Court ruled that since the DHS decision did not fall within any of the three decisions or actions specifically mentioned in the statute, then the INA also did not bar the decision from being subject to review by the courts.

As for the merits of the suit, the Court found that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on their claims that the DHS action in terminating DACA was arbitrary and capricious, and thus must be set aside by the APA. The Court concluded that the Acting Secretary of DHS was incorrect in his assertion that DACA was an unconstitutional and illegal exercise of executive authority, and that DACA was, in fact, a permissible exercise of executive discretion.

Peek & Toland dedicates a large part of its practice to helping both individuals and businesses resolve their immigration-related issues. Immigration law is a complex, ever-changing area of the law that necessitates legal advice from experienced immigration lawyers who keep up-to-date with all relevant changes in law and policy. We will work with you to achieve the most positive outcome possible in your situation. Call our office today and set up a consultation with our skilled immigration attorneys today.

Posted in Immigration

H-1B and H-2B Visas: What’s the Difference?

By Peek & Toland on December 20, 2018

H-1B and H-2B are two different categories of visas under U.S. immigration laws. These visas allow immigrants to come to the U.S. on a temporary basis for varying purposes.

The H-1B visa is for individuals with specialized skills, usually obtained through an advanced degree program. Individuals who qualify for admission pursuant to this category of visa must have a job offer from a U.S. employer who has received confirmation from the U.S. Department of Labor that there are no U.S. citizens who can fill that position. In other words, the employer must first advertise, recruit, and interview American candidates before considering foreign candidates. The particular position also must be in line with the salaries and working conditions of U.S. citizens in similar positions.

 

There are two more specific sub-categories to the H-1B visa, one for government researcher workers (H-1B2 and high-profile fashion models (H-1B3). The H-1B visa is valid for three years and may be renewed for an additional three years. There is limit on the number of H-1B visas issued by the U.S. government each year.

In contrast, the H-2B visa program is designed for non-professional foreign workers to enter the U.S. and work in non-agricultural temporary jobs for qualified U.S. employers, or those who meet specific regulatory requirements. These jobs often are in the hospitality and tourism industries. An H-2B visa is authorized for one year, but employers may extend the visa for up to three years. This is a non-immigrant visa; once the visa expires or is no longer authorized, the immigrant must return to his or her native country. There also are annual caps on the number of H-2B visas issued each year.

When you or a loved one is facing an immigration law problem, you need legal advice and counsel from experienced Texas immigration attorneys. At Peek & Toland, we are here to help you with your immigration case. We will devote all our efforts to representing your interests, answering your questions, and calming your concerns. Don’t hesitate to contact Peek & Toland and schedule a time to meet with us today. We can help protect your rights and get you the relief that you need.

Posted in Immigration

DWI with a Child Passenger

By Peek & Toland on December 19, 2018

DWI with a child passenger is a serious charge that occurs when an individual operates a motor vehicle in a public place and the vehicle that he or she is operating is occupied by a passenger who is under 18 years of age.

A conviction for DWI with a child passenger can result in the following penalties under Texas law:

·         Fines of up to $10,000

·         Incarceration ranging from 180 days to two years

·         Driver’s license suspension ranging from 90 days to two years

·         Annual surcharge fee of $1,000 to $2,000 each year for three years

 

DWI with a Child Passenger

Since DWI with a child passenger is a felony offense, you also will forfeit some civil rights, including the right to vote and the right to possess a firearm.

Although you are likely to be released on bond following charges of DWI on a child passenger, you also are likely to face significant restrictions. For instance, you may be prohibited from driving, drinking, and using controlled substances while out on bond. In other cases, you may be subject to random drug tests. The court also could order you to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle as a condition of your ability to drive in this situation.

Due to the severity of this charge, you could face collateral consequences of a DWI with a child passenger charge, as well. Since professionals are required to report child neglect under Texas law, a DWI with a child passenger charge could result in a report to Texas Child Protective Services (CPS). If CPS becomes involved with your family and opens a case, they could remove your child from your custody due to the dangerous situation in which you placed the child. You also could face a custody challenge from your child’s other parent, alleging that you are no longer fit to have custody of the child.

If you are facing criminal charges, you should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can ensure that you raise all relevant defenses. At Peek & Toland, we are dedicated to protecting your rights and defending you any accusations of wrongdoing that you may be facing. We are here to investigate the facts surrounding your case, consider your options, and help you develop the strategy that is best designed to achieve a successful outcome in your case. Do not waste time attempting to handle legal matters on your own; contact our office as soon as you are charged with a criminal offense so that we can provide you with the help that we need.

Posted in DWI

What Crimes Make Me Potentially Deportable?

By Peek & Toland on December 18, 2018

All immigrants, including legal permanent residents or green card holders, may be subject to deportation from the U.S. if they commit a crime of moral turpitude or an aggravated felony. While these standards can be somewhat vague, court decisions over the years have helped define the specific crimes that potentially can lead to deportation proceedings.

The most common elements to an offense that qualifies as a crime of moral turpitude include fraud, larceny or theft, and an intent to harm others or property. Therefore, any type of offense that involves fraud or theft is likely to be a crime of moral turpitude. Other criminal offenses falling within this category are assault with the intent to rob or kill another, domestic violence or spousal abuse, and driving while intoxicated with aggravating factors, such as property damage or bodily injury.  

 

What Crimes Make Me Potentially Deportable?

There is an exception to crimes of moral turpitude that constitute “petty offenses.” A crime may qualify as a petty offense if the potential penalty could never be more than one year in prison and the most time that the individual served was six months. Thus, a shoplifting conviction, for instance, is likely to meet the petty offense exception.

Deportation for a crime of moral turpitude normally occurs if you commit a qualifying crime within five years of being admitted to the U.S. It also might occur if you commit two or more qualifying crimes that did not arise out of the same incidence of misconduct at any time after you were admitted to the U.S.

An aggravated felony encompasses several different serious offenses outlined under federal immigration law. These offenses include murder, rape, drug trafficking, and child pornography, among many others. Aggravated felonies also include any theft or violent crime with a sentence of at least one year. This is regardless of whether you actually served one year or not. An aggravated felony conviction can result in you being permanently inadmissible to the U.S.

Whatever your situation may be, you will need skilled legal assistance to work toward a resolution of your immigration law matter. The Texas immigration attorneys of Peek & Toland know how to help you navigate through the maze of immigration forms, regulations, and policies, and get the relief that you need. Take the first step today and secure the future of your family in the U.S. Contact our office today at and set up an evaluation with one of our highly skilled Texas immigration lawyers.

Posted in Immigration

Proposed Changes to the H-1B Legal Landscape are Coming. Are You Ready?

By Peek & Toland on December 18, 2018

H-1B Cap season is quickly approaching; the visas are capped at 85,000 issued per year (65,000 initially allocated and 20,000 cap exempt advanced degree numbers). The Department of Homeland Security has proposed rule changes that may affect you.

In 2017 the Trump Administration issued the “Buy American Hire American” executive order, which greatly changed the immigration landscape. As a result, employment-based immigration processes have encountered increased scrutiny. For example, one section of the order instructed The Department of Homeland Security to, “suggest reforms to help ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest paid petition beneficiaries.” The recently proposed order strives to do that.

The proposed change comes in two parts:

  • An online registration system would be put into place. H-1B Petitioners would create an online account prior to filing the petitions and only those selected accounts would submit petitions to USCIS.
  • The “cap” process would be reversed. In an attempt to increase the number of advanced applicants, all applicants (including those marked as “Masters Cap Exempt”) would compete for the initial 65,000 H-1B’s. Once all initial numbers are used, then the remaining advanced degree holders would compete for the remaining 20,000 slots.

The first change would require petitioning companies and applicants to provide basic information (i.e. employer name, address, EIN, etc. as well as beneficiary name, country of citizenship, degree held, etc.). It would also require employers to confirm their intent to file an H-1B application for that specific beneficiary. A separate registration would need to be filed for each beneficiary. Government spokespersons have said this would save companies money by ensuring they did not have to pay filing fees until the petition was selected. The secondary change, per USCIS Spokesman Michael Bars, “would help ensure more of the best and brightest workers from around the world come to America under the H-1B program”.

The proposed order is similar to a hotly contested proposed order under the Obama Administration. In 2011 when this similar order was considered the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) responded to The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services raising their concerns. The general concerns of the association, consisting of over 11,000 immigration attorneys, were:

  • The registration system would create a rush of registrations, creating a false H-1B Demand;
  • The Cost to Benefit assessment was flawed; and
  • This would add an unnecessary layer to an already complicated process.

The government has posted the currently proposed changes on the Federal Register, and is taking comments until January 2, 2019. USCIS has informed the public that they would like to enact this change prior to the FY2020 H-1B Cap season, beginning April 1, 2019.

What does this mean for you as an employer?

While it is unlikely that these changes will be enacted in 2019 due to regulatory requirements, H-1B visas will still be limited to 85,000 and employers will need to be prepared to file as early as possible.

Peek & Toland has a strong team of immigration attorneys, including Partner Jeff Peek and Senior Corporate Immigration Attorney, Maria Pilar Llusá. With over seventeen (17) years of Employment Immigration experience, they are prepared to tackle any issues your company may have with regards to their immigration needs.

Looking for legal help for your H-1B applications?

To help employers get a jump start and be prepared for a successful cap season, our firm will be offering free 30 minute consults to companies with new H-1B cap season needs starting January 3, 2019.

It is important you be prepared and informed of the requirements for the H-1B Cap season. Please contact our offices to schedule your consult today. We look forward to working with you and serving all your immigration needs.

Posted in Citizenship, Immigration, Immigration Reform, Visas

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What is SR-22 Insurance and When Do I Need It?

By Peek & Toland on December 17, 2018

A Financial Responsibility Insurance Certificate (SR-22) is a certificate issued by an insurance company that serves as proof to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) that an individual has purchased a policy for minimum liability insurance as required by law. Insurance agencies that issue SR-22s will automatically notify DPS if the insurance policy is cancelled, lapses, or otherwise terminates.

The minimum liability insurance required by Texas law for drivers to have in place includes the following:

·         $30,000 for bodily injury to or death of one person in one accident

·         $60,000 for bodily injury to or death of two persons in one accident

·         $25,000 for damage to or destruction of property of others in one accident

What is SR-22 Insurance and When Do I Need It?

An SR-22 certificate comes into play when individuals have their licenses suspended or revoked as a result of a car crash, criminal conviction, or judgment. When this situation occurs, individuals must maintain a valid SR-22 certificate with DPS for two years from the date of the conviction or the date of the issuance of the judgment. Another situation in which DPS requires an SR-22 certificate is when individuals must place a security deposit with DPS as compliance for a crash or crash default suspension. An additional requirement to reinstating a license following a suspension, aside from proof of SR-22 insurance, is that individuals must pay all reinstatement fees to DPS.

DPS can suspend your license and vehicle registration if you are supposed to have a valid SR-22 certificate in place and you fail to do so, or if your insurance agency notifies DPS that your policy has been cancelled, lapsed, or terminated.

If you find yourself charged with any type of criminal offense, you need legal advice that only experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys can offer you. As the consequences of any criminal conviction may be severe, you should immediately contact a skilled defense lawyer for help if you have been accused of a criminal offense. Peek & Toland provides strong legal representation on a regular basis for individuals who are charged with various crimes. It is our priority is to represent your interests and protect your rights.  Call us at (512) 474-4445 and schedule an appointment to speak with us today.

Posted in Criminal Defense

What’s Next for the Flores Settlement?

By Peek & Toland on December 16, 2018

The Flores Settlement is the 1997 conclusion to a class action lawsuit original filed in federal court in 1985. Pursuant to the settlement, the federal government agreed to take certain actions to create a new set for child welfare standards for the immigration system. One of the major features of the settlement is that the federal government may not detain an immigrant family, i.e. those with minor children, for more than 20 days.

Now, however, following the Trump administration’s efforts to take a hardline stance toward immigrants in general but avoid another family separation policy that brought so much backlash from the public, the administration is attempting to overturn the regulations agreed upon in the settlement using the rulemaking process.

What’s Next for the Flores Settlement?

The newly proposed regulations would remove many of the rights of by immigrant families established in the settlement. For instance, the proposed regulations would not adhere to the 20-day maximum detention period, and, in fact, would pave the way for the indefinite detention of immigrant children. As a result of the current length of immigration court proceedings, which stretch from months to years in some areas of the country, the detention period could be very lengthy. The regulations also would impact the options of families for release, their right to bond hearings, and other legal protections.

Furthermore, the new regulations would eliminate the settlement’s requirement that immigrant children be held in licensed facilities that meet certain baseline welfare standards. These standards impact the clothing, food, health care, educational services, and recreational activities to which children in these facilities now are entitled

The immigration attorneys of Peek & Toland have the experience that you need when you are seeking any type of relief or benefit under federal immigration laws, regardless of your situation. We will determine the facts and evidence that are relevant to your case, evaluate your options, and help you decide the best course of action for your case. It is our intention to place you in the best position possible to achieve your goals. Contact our Texas immigration attorneys at our office today and learn how we can assist you through this complicated situation.

Posted in Immigration

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