What Does Good Moral Character Mean in Naturalization?

By Peek & Toland on October 27, 2016

Our Texas naturalization lawyers are often asked what “good moral character” means in citizenship applications.

This can be a gray area that’s open to interpretation. Generally, good moral character means the applicant has no serious criminal issues in his or her past and fulfills his or her legal obligations.

If you have committed crimes that are “aggravated felonies,” not only is your naturalization application going to fail but you will likely face deportation.

Good moral character is a requirement for naturalization applications

The crimes in question include murder, rape, child abuse, treason and drug trafficking. The law states that a person is not of good moral character if he or she was convicted of an aggravated felony after November 29, 1990, even if the conviction was over five years prior to the citizenship application.

So-called crimes of “moral turpitude” can lead you to lose your green card and to fail the “good moral character” test for naturalization. They are defined here by Nolo

However, you don’t have to prove you have done good deeds to pass the “good moral character” test.

The USCIS Policy Manual defined “good moral character” as “character which measures up to the standards of average citizens of the community in which the applicant resides.”

In other words, you don’t have to be a saint; just average will satisfy the test.

There are some other crimes that also may question your moral character and scupper your naturalization application.

While a speeding ticket is unlikely to derail your application, gambling offenses, perjury, prostitution, and drug offenses on your record can thwart a finding of good moral character.

If you committed an aggravated felony, applying for citizenship is likely to be a waste of time. However, it can be difficult to make a decision about an applicant’s personal character when the misconduct occurred a long time in the past. You may be eligible for some immigration benefits like cancellation of removal.

Your naturalization application will have a better chance if you violated a traffic law or been convicted of a minor misdemeanor. If you have any concerns about your moral character in these applications, talk to your Texas citizenship attorney.

When Should You Show Good Moral Character in Naturalization Applications?

If you are a green card holder and you intend to apply for U.S. naturalization in the future, you must demonstrate good moral character during the whole period that you have been a lawful permanent resident. The five years before you apply for citizenship are particularly important.

The naturalization interviewer specifically evaluates the moral character of candidates who can be disqualified for criminal activity at this time.

You can be denied reentry to the United States if you travel abroad if an immigration officer discovers evidence of criminal activity.

Even when an applicant for naturalization has never been convicted of a felony, the immigration authorities may review his or her entire history before the five years before the application to determine whether the applicant is of good moral character.

You can read more about the citizenship process here. If you are applying for naturalization and fear there may be a question about your good moral character, talk to a Texas immigration attorney as soon as possible. Call us at (512) 474-4445.


How to Fill Out Biographical Information on a Green Card Application

By Peek & Toland on October 26, 2016

Making a green card application can be one of the most difficult and time-consuming things you will ever do. The federal authorities don’t make it easy and it often makes sense to hire an immigration lawyer to help you.

One of the forms you will have to fill in is the G-325A, Biographic Information form. The form asks for lengthy background details of names of your family members and former residences and places where you worked in the past.

Making a green card application is complex

These details aren’t always hard to find but it can be a laborious process. U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) doesn’t always make the process easy for those who seek residency in Texas or elsewhere.

When you are making a green card application, you will find there are parts of G-325A that are straightforward and well-explained. Other parts can be confusing.

The Straightforward Parts of the Green Card Application

When you start the process, you may mistakenly think it’s easy. The first few questions ask for basic details that you should have at your fingertips such as your name, your date of birth and where you were born, along with some biographical information about your parents.

There is also a section for information about your relationships. You will be asked for names, dates of birth and marital details of former spouses. This information is particularly important if your application for a green card is based on marriage. The immigration authorities must be satisfied that all previous marriages were legally terminated.

If your spouse has sponsored green cards applicants in the past it may flag up concerns about possible marriage fraud.

The More Difficult Parts of the Green Card Application

The G-325A contains tougher questions as you progress through it. There are questions about where you have lived for the last five years and where you have worked. It’s not always easy to recall every single detail if you have moved around a lot. Make sure to answer questions about your employment history in reverse chronological order. You can get away with the occasional “unknown” answer but too many unknowns could lead your application to be returned.

There are a number of routes to obtaining a green card and residency. Our Austin citizenship attorneys can guide you through every step of the process. Call us today to make an appointment to meet with a lawyer at (512) 474-4445.

What are K-3/K-4 Visas?

By Peek & Toland on October 25, 2016

Many people who want move their families to the United States have little idea what K-3/K-4 visas are and how they can be beneficial.

The laws in the United States support bringing families together. It may not always feel that way if you are fighting USCIS red tape. K-3/K-4 visas are nonimmigrant visas that allow the foreign spouse of a U.S. citizen and children of the citizen to secure a temporary stay here.

On its website, USCIS states the temporary stay must occur during the processing of a Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative. Visa recipients can obtain authorization to work in the U.S. while they are waiting.

K3/K4 visas are intended to bring families together

To be eligible for a K-3 nonimmigrant visa, the applicant must:

  • Be legally married to a U.S. citizen;
  • A form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, must have been filed by the U.S. citizen spouse on the behalf of the visa recipient.

A child may obtain a K-4 visa if:

  • The child is under 21, not married and the child of a qualified K-3 nonimmigrant visa applicant.

Advantages and Disadvantages of K-3/K-4 Visas

When they are admitted into the United States, holders can apply for permanent resident status. However, K-4 nonimmigrants must have a Form I-130 filed on their behalf when they apply for adjustment of status. To work here, K-3/K-4 visa holders can file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.

The main drawback of K-3/K-4 visas is their limited duration. K-3/K-4 visa holders gain admittance for just two years. They can apply for two-year extensions on the condition that their I-130 petition remains pending. If their immigrant visa application is denied, their authorization to stay in the United States expires 30 days after the rejection of the application. K-3 visas automatically expire if the immigrant divorces from the U.S. citizen.

If your child marries, his or her K-4 nonimmigrant’s status automatically expires 30 days after the wedding.

Our Texas K-3/K-4 visa attorneys provide more information about the programs here.

The K-3/K-4 visa program is helpful because it keeps families together but there are a lot of overlapping processes as well as potential pitfalls.

If you want to apply for one of these visas it makes sense to contact a highly experienced Texas immigration lawyer who can assist you with every step of the process. Call Peek & Toland, PLLC at (512) 474-4445.

Rich Donor to the Clinton Foundation Denied a Visitor Visa to the US

By Peek & Toland on October 24, 2016

Millions of people travel to the United States from all over the world every year. However, entry to the country is not guaranteed. Arrivals from many countries require a visitor visa. Recently, an influential supporter of the Clinton Foundation was denied a visitor visa because of perceived links to terror organizations.

Gilbert Chagoury donated millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation. Six years ago, he pledged $1 billion to the Clinton Global Initiative. His wealth and influence apparently meant little to immigration authorities. They denied him a visitor visa last summer because of his ties in Lebanon to Hezbollah, the Los Angeles Times reported.

In 2015, when the Nigerian billionaire wanted to fly to Los Angeles, he applied at the U.S. embassy in Paris for a visitor’s visa. He was turned down, according to the report.

Rich donor to the Clinton Foundation was denied visitor visa

The Los Angeles Times reported the refusal was based on terrorism grounds and followed claims from intelligence and law enforcement sources. Terrorism-related grounds is a broad category. It can be used against anyone who is believed to have helped a terrorist group in any way, including providing funds.

The report said Chagoury donated $1 million to $5 million to the Clinton Foundation. It cited its list of donors.

He fell under suspicion in 2010 when he was taken off a private jet in New Jersey and questioned for hours. Chagoury was on the no-fly list maintained by the Department of Homeland Security. He was later removed from the list and categorized as a “selectee,” Homeland Security papers revealed. The status meant he could fly with extra scrutiny.

In 2013, an FBI intelligence report claimed Chagoury sent money to Michel Aoun, a Lebanese Christian politician. The FBI report mentioned a source which claimed Aoun was “facilitating fundraising for Hezbollah,” a terrorist organization. The Los Angeles Times report said this raw information was not verified. However, U.S. authorities put the billionaire in a database used to screen arrivals for possible terrorism links.

When You Need a Visitor Visa

Many countries such as France, the United Kingdom, Australia, Italy, Spain, Japan, and Sweden have a relationship with the US that allows visitors to access the United States with their passport alone if they plan to stay for less than 90 days. Here’s a full list of countries on the visa waiver program.

If you plan to stay for more than 90 days or are not from a country that’s part of the visa waiver program, you will need to apply for a B-2 visitor visa.

You cannot use a visitor visa if you are planning to work here or study unless you are enrolled in a short study course. It cannot lead to a degree qualification. It can be used for social gatherings, family visits or amateur participation in sporting events.

To obtain a visitor visa you must show you have adequate funding to cover your trip. Although this was not an issue for Chagoury, his refusal to be issued with a visitor visa shows how seriously the U.S. authorities take any perceived link to terrorism.

You can read more about eligibility for a visitor visa on our website.

If you are planning to apply for a B-2 visitor visa you may hit many unexpected hurdles along the way. It makes sense to consult with an experienced Texas visa and immigration attorney. Call us at (512) 474-4445.

Five Reasons Why You May Need a Texas Citizenship Attorney

By Peek & Toland on October 21, 2016

Many green card holders don’t always appreciate the benefits of citizenship or pursue applications. However, there are many reasons to pursue naturalization and numerous reasons to hire a Texas citizenship attorney.

At Peek & Toland, PLLC, a Texas citizenship attorney can take over the whole complex and bureaucratic process for you and help you embark on a secure life in a new land.

There are many reasons why you may need a citizenship attorney

You should be aware that residency does not afford you the full range of protections for remaining in the United States that citizenship does.

If you become a citizen you can hold a U.S. passport and you can vote. You have protection from possible deportation if you commit a crime. You can apply for federal jobs, federal benefits and secure citizenship for your children.

Reasons to Hire a Texas Citizenship Attorney

1 The Lawyer May Identify Potential Problems

After receiving a permanent residency card, the green card can be revoked for many actual or perceived criminal or immigration violations. You may not be informed that your green card is in jeopardy. Often residents don’t realize they face potential deportation until they submit fingerprints for a replacement card, seek removal of conditions or citizenship. Hiring a lawyer at an early stage for a citizenship application can alert you to potential problems or even head them off. You must have lived in the United States as a lawful permanent resident for at least five years before you apply for citizenship.

2 The Application is Less Likely to be Delayed or Rejected

Many applicants for citizenship complain about the time it takes. It’s not a straightforward or a quick process. If there are gaps in your application or inconsistencies, it may be rejected leaving you facing more delays and frustrations. Hiring an experienced Texas citizenship lawyer can significantly reduce the possibility or error and delay. A lawyer can find potential pitfalls and avoid your application being rejected.

3 Attorneys Represent their Clients at Hearings

An Immigration lawyer will often speak for his or her client and present the facts during legal hearing. The attorney can’t take the citizenship’s civics test for a client or represent the immigrant at the interview, but the lawyer can help a client prepare for a hearing and give instructions on how to answer questions.

4 Lawyers Can Help With the Language Barrier

Many immigrants face numerous difficulties when they arrive in the United States due to the language barrier. Usually, by the time they apply for citizenship their English skills will have improved. However, this is not always the case,

Attorneys can provide important referrals and guide their clients to learning centers where they are taught the language and history of the United States. An attorney can provide resources to help a client tackle the English test in the citizenship application. Immigrants find these resources invaluable. At Peek & Toland, PLLC, attorney Jeff Peek is fluent in Spanish and routinely helps immigrants with little or no knowledge of English.

5 Attorneys Can Appeal Denied Applications

You should not give up if your application has been denied. A Texas citizenship attorney will look over everything and identify errors or possibly find mistakes made by the immigration authorities.

After the denial of an application, an immigrant may want to file a motion for reconsideration, also known as an appeal. The immigrant’s lawyer will file all of the necessary paperwork. In some cases an attorney can halt a deportation during the appeal process.  If your application is rejected, please do not lose hope. Decisions can often be unfair and arbitrary. By hiring a lawyer for your appeal, we can ensure no stone is left unturned.

There are many other ways an attorney can help you with your citizenship application. See our resources on Texas citizenship applications or call us at (512) 474-4445.

Texas Child Status Protection Act Lawyers Advise Families Seeking to Reunite in the USA

By Peek & Toland on October 20, 2016

The Child Status Protection Act was signed into law by President George W Bush in 2002.

The CSPA amended the Immigration Nationality Act (INA) by amending who qualifies to be a child for purposes of immigration. Under this legislation, some immigrants can remain classified as a child once they have reached the age of 21.

The Child Status Protection Act was intended to solve some complex issues found in the Immigration Nationality Act.

The Child Status Protection Act was intended to keep families together

Up until 2002, naturalized or permanent residents in the United States faced some painful hurdles to petition their immigrant children’s status.

If their children were not residents, they would often face obstacles in joining their parents in the United States because of their ages.

The Purpose of the Child Status Protection Act

Before the Child Status Protection Act, immigrants who applied for residency as children ran the risk of “aging out” as soon as they turned 21. Legally, they were no longer classified as children at 21 and would have to apply again as adults, losing the benefit of their families’ residency status.

The Child Status Protection Act acts like a hold for a family’s petition for their child’s residency. The age of the children is held at the juncture that the application is submitted.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) points out Congress recognized large backlogs and long processing times for children’s visa petitions meant they were “aging out” of the process.

Under the CSPA, the “child” status is protected for family-based immigrants, employment-based immigrants, and some classifications of humanitarian program immigrants like refugees and asylum seekers.

The Child Status Protection Act is a very complicated piece of legislation. You can read more about it on here on our website.

We outline the alternative routes that can be used to bring children to the United States, namely:

  • Parents file Form I-130 or Petition before their child’s 21st birthday. This means they can effectively “freeze” the child’s age when the petition is submitted and the child will not “age out” even if the bureaucratic process runs beyond their 21st birthday.
  • When the parent naturalizes before the out-of-country beneficiary reaches his or her 21st birthday, the age of the child is “frozen” at the time of the naturalization. The Form I-130 petition can, therefore, be processed after the child has turned 21-years-old.

Petitioning for immigrant children is a complex area of immigration law. Although the Child Status Protection Act has made it easier, it makes sense to hire an experienced Texas immigration attorney. Please call us at (512) 474-4445.

Immigrant Who Used Fake SSN Wins Victory in Cancellation of Removal Case

By Peek & Toland on October 19, 2016

Cancellation of removal cases are seldom successful when an immigrant is convicted of a crime “involving moral turpitude.”

However, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the Board of Immigration Appeals was incorrect in a recent ruling. It decided an undocumented immigrant wasn’t eligible for cancellation of removal because she used a fake Social Security number to work in the United States.

Undocumented immigrant wins cancellation of removal case

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled on the case of Arias v. Lynch in August.

The case concerned the Immigration and Nationality Act. Under this legislation, the attorney general has the discretion to cancel the pending removal of an undocumented immigrant from the country unless the immigrant has been convicted of a “crime involving moral turpitude.”

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, the attorney general has the discretion to cancel an undocumented immigrant’s removal. But there are exceptions. A key one is when the immigrant is convicted of a “crime involving moral turpitude.”

The Seventh Circuit held the Board of Immigration Appeals was incorrect. The board concluded the law relating to fake SSI numbers involves moral turpitude in all instances and negated cancellation of removal.

The decision was not a complete victory for the undocumented immigrant. The 2-1 decision suggested an undocumented immigrant who used a fake SSI number to pay taxes and support his or her family. However, the case was sent back to the Board of Immigration Appeals for reconsideration.

What is Cancellation of Removal?

Cancellation or removal is also called cancellation of deportation. Our Austin immigration attorneys write about it in more detail here.

There is a traditional form of cancellation of removal or deportation for a non-permanent resident or cancellation for an abused and a non-permanent immigrant.

Our attorneys have won many cancellation of removal cases. Our successes include the case of an undocumented immigrant arrested for assault. We were successful in securing cancellation of removal. In the case, we pointed out his wife, a U.S. citizen, was chronically ill and three children depended on him.

The term “moral turpitude” has been used loosely in the law and attempts to get a clear definition have failed.

However, the lack of clarity in the law means you should hire the services of an experienced Austin immigration attorney in cancellation of removal cases. Contact Peek & Toland, PLLC here.

Teen Immigrants from Central America are Targeted in Crackdown

By Peek & Toland on October 18, 2016

Teen immigrants from Central America are being targeted for crackdowns by the federal authorities. They are even being arrested when they are walking to school, according to media reports.

The teen immigrants recounted their ordeals to the 11Alive News station in Atlanta, Georgia. Our Austin cancellation of removal attorneys, are aware of similar stories across the country.

Teen immigrants from Central America face deportation

Operation Border Guardian is aimed at Central American immigrants who have just turned 18, 11Alive News reported. They came to the U.S. illegally as children and are now being lined up for possible deportation.

Although many of the teens live in the United States and go to school here, they face an uncertain future.

The report featured Pineda Chavez who recently turned 18 and faces the grim reality of being an undocumented immigrant living in the United States.

She was picked up in Atlanta and taken to a detention center in Irwin County, Georgia.

Teen Immigrants From Central America Face Deportation/h2>

The TV reporters spoke to Pastor Larry Campbell of Corners Church of Christ in Norcross, whose church has 14 Central American families who have teenagers facing possible deportation under Operation Border Guardian. They came to the United States as children.

The deportation of teens from Central America has provoked a furor among refugee advocates who point out many of these young people fled intimidation, gang warfare and violence at home. If you flee from persecution you can claim asylum. However, asylum applications must be filed within a year of entering the United States.

In an article on March 9, The New York Times reported more than 28,800 people from Central America who had been apprehended at the border were repatriated to their countries.

In January, federal authorities rounded up 120 migrants and targeted them for deportation, sparking anger from some Democratic lawmakers and refugee groups.

The New York Times reported many of these migrants were young children. Fewer than half of them were represented by lawyers in their asylum cases. Most of the migrants are from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, three of the most dangerous countries in the world.

At Peek & Toland, PLLC, we are concerned about the fates of these teen immigrants who are being held in detention camps only to be sent back to danger in their home countries.

If you need representation in an asylum case or cancellation of removal, please call us as soon as possible at (512) 474-4445.

USCIS Investigates $20 Million Visa Fraud Investigation

By Peek & Toland on October 17, 2016

Visa fraud is a hot topic on the national immigration agenda in the run-up to the presidential election. It made headlines in August when a married couple was accused of fraudulently applying for more than 900 illegal immigration benefits.

Raju Kosuri, 44, and Smriti Jharia, 45, a married Indian couple admitted visa fraud and conspiracy to defraud the United States. They face up to 30 years in prison, Times of India reported.

The couple was indicted on April 27. The U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Virginia said the couple and their co-conspirators applied for more than 900 illegal immigration benefits. They used the H-1B visa program.

Couple indicted for visa fraud in Virginia

A press release from the office stated Kosuri built a staffing business. It was in effect a “visa-for-sale” operation in contravention of federal law.

H1-B visas are used to bring skilled workers to the United States from overseas. However, the system has come under scrutiny in recent years. While some tech companies want more visas, there are also moves in Congress to impose more controls over the visas. Indian workers are the largest beneficiary of the visas.

The Virginia indictment claimed The indictment alleges that Kosuri has set up a network of shell companies that he presented to immigration authorities as independent businesses in need of Indian workers, but which he, in fact ,owned and controlled.

Visa Fraud Scheme Netted More than $20 Million

It alleged that Kosuri and his co-conspirators used the entities to file petitions for non-existent job vacancies at Kosuri’s data center in Danville.Kosuri set up a network of shell companies. He then presented them to immigration authorities as being independent companies that needed Indian workers. In fact, he owned and controlled all of them.

Federal investigators said Kosuri and his co-conspirators used these companies to apply for non-existent vacancies for workers. The scheme netted profits of at least $20 million. Kosuri agreed to forfeit proceeds of his fraud schemes in the amount of $20,900,000.

The couple admitted to defrauding the Small Business Administration over an elaborate scheme to obtain HUBZone certification for a business.

At Peek & Toland, PLLC, we are well aware of the stiff penalties visa fraud attracts. Major federal prosecutions make headlines. However, there are other cases in which visa fraud allegations are made incorrectly. When a company is applying for H1-B visas there is a lot of pressure to bring skilled workers from overseas in a short time. There are many potential pitfalls in this operation. A defendant may have made a mistake in an application that leads to suspicion and even criminal charges.

Our Austin immigration and criminal defense attorneys are prepared to help you if you face federal charges. Call us for a consultation at (512) 474-4445.

Immigration Reform – USCIS Proposes New Rules for Foreign Entrepreneurs

By Peek & Toland on October 14, 2016

Immigration reform is never far from the national agenda or the pitches of the candidates in the U.S. Presidential election.  Recently, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), moved to make it easier for foreign entrepreneurs to invest in the United States by proposing a rule to give them temporary permission to be in the country.

In a press release published on Aug. 26, USCIS outlined the immigration reform. The new rule would allow some foreign investors to be considered for parole, which is temporary permission to be in the country, to start up their business. The rule is called the International Entrepreneur Rule.

Immigration reform is proposed for overseas investors

USCIS Director León Rodríguez said immigrant entrepreneurs boosted America’s economy for many years. He said the new rule, once finalized, will help grow the economy by increasing immigration options for investors from overseas who meet criteria related to job creation and attracting investment.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will be able to exercise its existing discretionary statutory parole authority for entrepreneurs of startup businesses under the new rule if their stay in the country has a significant business and job growth potential.

Criteria for the Entrepreneur Immigration Reform

Applications would be decided on a case-by-case basis. Entrepreneurs should.

  • Demonstrate at least 15 percent ownership of the startup business;
  • Have a company set up in the United States in the past three years;
  • Demonstrate potential for job creation and rapid growth. The startup should receive at least $345,000 from qualified U.S. investors and awards or grants of at least $100,000 from certain state, federal or local government entities, or,
  • Partially satisfy the criteria for investment and government aid in conjunction with other reliable and strong evidence of the startup’s potential for job creation and rapid growth.

Under the proposed rule, foreign entrepreneurs would be granted an initial stay of up to two years in the country to set up and grow the business.  A request for re-parole, which would allow the investor to stay another three years in the U.S., would be considered only if the investor and the business continued to provide a significant public benefit.  The entrepreneur would have to demonstrate evidence of substantial increases in capital investment, job and revenue creation, to be awarded re-parole.

Uncertainty over immigration and the many regulations that face investors from overseas remains a barrier to investment in the United States. An article in Forbes in 2013, urged the government to remove some of these obstacles. Many experts believe the United States has slipped in areas that positively impact investments in recent years.

At Peek & Toland, PLLC we welcome immigration reform and have detailed planned changes here on our website.

If you are seeking to invest in Texas or want to work with an investor, it makes sense to talk to our immigration attorneys to make the process smoother. Call us today at (512) 474-4445.