Seguritan US Immigration Articles

New Bipartisan Bill To Protect DREAMers from Deportation

DREAMers may have found hope against possible deportation in the coming months as a new bipartisan bill that will protect them is underway.

Called the “Bar Removal of Immigrants who Dream and Grow the Economy” or BRIDGE Act, the new bill introduced by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) would provide DACA-eligible individuals temporary protection from deportation. They will be placed under “provisional protected presence” similar to the one provided by the DACA or the Deferred Action Against Childhood Arrivals. They will also be granted work permits and will be allowed to continue their schooling after paying the required fees and undergoing background checks.

DACA protected the children of immigrants brought here to the US before turning 16 years old and have remained here, gone to school or worked and maintained no criminal records. But because DACA was merely an executive action, that could be repealed by President-elect Donald Trump, having a bill that would safeguard 740,000 young people from deportation is a glimmer of hope.

Although the text of the actual bill is not yet available as this will be reintroduced in January 2017, the provisional protected presence will be for three years. The proponents of the bill are hopeful that within those three years, they would have been able to pass a more comprehensive immigration reform act that would not only stop deportation for these young people but provide a path to citizenship as well.

The Bridge Act will also be made available not only to those who have already been granted DACA but also to those who will apply for the protection for the first time. It will also ensure that any information obtained by the government under DACA or the new provisional protected presence will not be used for immigration enforcement purposes, with exceptions for national security or non-immigration felony investigations.

Despite Republicans questioning DACA because this was done through executive rather than legislative action and the GOP’s immigration platform being anchored in securing the rule of law, both at the borders and at ports of entry, it is interesting to know that there are some Republican lawmakers that are just as willing to protect the young immigrants just as much as their Democrat counterparts. Aside from Senators Graham and Murkowski, Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) also expressed their support. However Sen. Durbin wants to add people in pairs- one Republican and one Democrat.

The senator is also hopeful that more Republicans will sign on because “most of them feel it’s only fair to take care of these young people.” He is also hopeful that with Trump slowly softening his immigration stance, they would get a more favorable response. Trump recently told Time magazine that these young people “got brought here at a very young age, they’ve worked here, they’ve gone to school here. Some were good students. Some have wonderful jobs. And they’re in never-never land because they don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Meanwhile, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) welcomed the new bipartisan bill. William A. Stock, AILA President, said “since DACA’s inception, we’ve seen three-quarters of a million DREAMers come forward in order to have a chance to pursue higher education and careers, in the process becoming productive taxpaying members of society. Senators Graham and Durbin recognize that these young adults are a vital part of our communities and an innovative and creative force that should not be stifled.”

AILA’s Executive Director Benjamin Johnson also said that “the bill is illustrative of the widespread bipartisan support for DREAMers and for reform that recognizes the valuable contributions that they and millions other immigrants have made to this country. Keeping DACA going is not only the right thing to do, it is smart business. Studies have shown that revoking DACA for the hundreds of thousands of current grantees would cost America more than $430 billion over ten years.”

 

New Rules to Benefit Immigrant Workers

The USCIS released last November 18 a final rule aimed at improving the processes for certain employment-based immigrant and nonimmigrant visa programs for highly skilled workers. Called, “Retention of EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 Immigrant Workers and Program Improvements Affecting High-Skilled Nonimmigrant Workers”, it goes into effect on January 17, 2017.

The new rule is intended to improve the ability of employers to hire and retain highly-skilled workers who are beneficiaries of approved immigrant visa petitions, improve the process of sponsoring nonimmigrant workers for lawful permanent resident (LPR) status and increase the ability of foreign workers to seek better employment opportunities, seek promotions, and change employers, if necessary to further their career.

The changes under the rule conform DHS regulations to existing policies and practices implementing the American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998 (ACWIA) and the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 (AC21).

The changes would benefit immigrant workers because they clarify and expand when immigrant workers may keep their priority date when applying for adjustment of status. While priority dates cannot be transferred to another alien, it can be retained by an alien for his subsequently filed EB-1, EB-2 or EB-3 petition as long as the approval of the initial Form I-140 petition was not revoked for fraud, willful misrepresentation of a material fact, the invalidation or revocation of a labor certification, or material error. This will help certain workers accept promotions, change employers, or pursue other employment opportunities without fear of losing their place in line for immigrant visas.

For certain workers with approved Form I-140 petitions in the EB-1, EB-2 or EB-3 categories, but who are unable to obtain LPR status due to immigrant visa backlogs, the final rule provides that Form I-140 petitions that have been approved for 180 days or more would no longer be subject to automatic revocation based solely on withdrawal by the petitioner or the termination of the petitioner’s business. The petition will continue to be valid for certain purposes like retention of priority dates, job portability and extension of status.

The job portability provision establishes two grace periods of up to 10 days for individuals in the E-1, E-2, E-3, L-1, H-1B and TN classifications including their family members which may be granted to these nonimmigrants at the time of admission or upon approval of an extension of stay or change of status.

A grace period of up to 60 consecutive days is also established for those in the E-1, E-2, E-3, H-1B, H-1B1, L-1, O-1 or TN classifications whose employment has ended prior to the end of the period of validity of their petition so they may be able to find new employment opportunities or extend their nonimmigrant status.

A one-year employment authorization for beneficiaries of an approved EB-1, EB-2 or EB-3 immigrant visa petition is also available if they are currently in the US in E3, H-1B, H-1B1, O-1 or L-1 nonimmigrant status and if an immigrant visa is not yet immediately available to them and they can show compelling reasons for the issuance. Their family members can also obtain employment authorization although this cannot be granted until the principal is granted.

Application to renew employment authorization is also allowed prior to the expiration of the initial grant as long as the alien worker can demonstrate that he continues to face compelling circumstances and he is the principal beneficiary of an approved EB-1, EB-2 or EB-3 petition and either an immigrant visa is not readily available or there is only 1 year or less difference between his priority date and the Final Action Date listed in the visa bulletin for his category and country of chargeability. This eligibility also extends to family members but cannot be granted until the principal is granted.

The new rule also clarifies some policies and procedures pertaining to the H-1B program such as providing H-1B status, beyond the six-year period of admission, determining cap extension, H-1B probability and license requirements.

 

DREAMERS’ Dilemma: To File or Not to File for DACA

Young immigrants known as Dreamers are in a dilemma after the election of Donald Trump as president. Should they file for DACA? Should those with DACA status file for renewal or travel under advance parole?

DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) is an executive action which was announced by outgoing US President Barack Obama back in June 2012 following the failure of the DREAM Act’s passage into law. It is lacking the force of law, and operating under the enforcement discretion of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), USCIS and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). It does not guarantee a path to citizenship but rather defers deportation to those who came to the US before turning 16 years old and have continuously resided in the country, gone to school and have no criminal records.

While it has helped a lot of young immigrants obtain work permits and travel authorization and be protected from deportation during Obama’s presidency, the reality is that executive actions can easily be undone by the next president. With Trump’s platform on undocumented immigrants, it is highly likely that he will end this executive action.

If and when Trump decides to totally scrap DACA, there is still uncertainty as to how USCIS will handle the situation. It is possible that if USCIS will terminate DACA completely, those holding valid work permits will no longer be able to renew. It is possible that the employment authorization and advance parole may remain valid until its expiration.

As of now, it is unclear if Trump will scrap the DACA immediately upon his assumption into office. Given that it usually takes about nine months for an initial DACA application to be adjudicated, it is safe to assume that any new application will not be adjudicated prior to his assumption in office on January 20, 2017. On the other hand, renewals of DACA application are processed quicker.

Thus, to avoid paying the DACA fees with no guarantee that it will not be rescinded, it may be best to defer any new initial DACA application until Trump has completely laid down his stand on the matter. On the other hand, those who plan to renew may opt to submit their DACA renewal as soon as practicable.

For DACA recipients who also intend to travel abroad but have not yet applied for their advance parole, any new Form I-131 application may not be adjudicated prior to January 20 given the current processing times. DACA recipients with advance parole should complete their travel and return to the US as soon as practicable and before January 20 to avoid any problems coming back. One should also bear in mind that the grant of an advance parole does not guarantee admission to the US. DHS may revoke or terminate any advance parole at any time.

Those intending to apply for the first time also have to take into consideration the risk they may be putting themselves into. Because DACA was created through an executive action, there is no statutory provision guaranteeing confidentiality. In fact, it somehow encourages people to come out from the shadows and divulge pertinent information like workplace or school location, in exchange for the promise of deferred deportation and protection. While the information disclosed in a DACA request is protected from disclosure to ICE and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) for immigration enforcement purposes, there is no guarantee that this will remain the same in the coming months.

What is clear is that those who already applied for DACA already have their information in government hands. Thus, it does not appear that if one were to renew his DACA, that he will put himself in any additional risk. On the other hand, the submission of an initial application at this time would require disclosure of pertinent information that could potentially be used in case of sweeps or workplace raids that may be conducted later on.

What To Expect from Trump on Immigration

Donald Trump’s election as president has caused fear and anxiety in immigrant communities across the US.

It is no secret that central to his campaign was his hard-line stance on immigration. He vowed to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants, build a wall on the US-Mexico border and make the Mexican government pay for it, triple the number of ICE agents, end sanctuary cities and suspend the issuance of visas to certain countries.

In a post-election television appearance on the CBS program “60 Minutes”, he reiterated the same promises and vowed to turn his campaign slogan into concrete actions and move forward with an aggressive policy to deport immigrants. He softened his tone a little bit by saying that he would go after two to three million undocumented aliens who are “criminals and have criminal records”.

But he did not elaborate on how he would hunt down his deportation targets. Some fear that a deportation force would be created to conduct sweeps or raids in homes and in the workplace.

He has reportedly started to assemble his immigration team and this includes at least two notorious anti immigrant activists, Kris Kobach, architect of anti immigrant laws in Arizona and Alabama and Danielle Cutrona, Senator Jeff Session’s counsel, who is avowedly anti immigrant.

Now more than ever, undocumented immigrants fear deportation and separation from their families. Immigration lawyers are likewise experiencing a surge of panic-stricken families who are anxious about their future. Even Filipino migrant workers are also worried about their jobs especially since Trump has espoused a more protectionist stance and that includes “bringing jobs back to Americans.” Filipino workers fear that their contracts may abruptly end when the new president assumes office in January. Immigrant workers whose petitions are now pending are likewise anxious that they may not be able to make it here due to Trump’s statement last August 4 in his campaign in Portland, Maine tagging nine countries, including the Philippines, as terrorist nations.

To what extent will he be able to muster his executive might to be able to fulfill his ideas to “make America great again”?

We can expect that Trump will muster his executive might by way of executive actions. He will undo Pres. Obama’s policy on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).As a result, more than 700,000 young immigrants who came to the US before turning 16 and have stayed here since June 15, 2007 will find themselves in a limbo. It is very unfortunate because they have long ties with the US and have already considered it to be their home and if Trump will push through with scrapping DACA, they will not be able to attend school or find work.

It is also to be expected that Trump will totally scrap Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) which is now on hold following a preliminary injunction placed by the lower Texas court and upheld by the Fifth Circuit Court. This is sad news for those who have no lawful immigration status although they have continuously resided in the US since January 10, 2010 and have a US citizen or LPR son or daughter. Immigrant rights advocates fear that scrapping DACA and DAPA altogether will disrupt family unity and ultimately become economically disadvantageous. This would mean separation of families among affected immigrants. This could also adversely affect businesses and the local economy as certain sectors like agriculture are dependent on the labor force provided by the immigrant population.

Communicating with the National Visa Center

The National Visa Center (NVC) processes approved immigrant petitions and K visa applications after they are forwarded from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It is where all immigrant visa pre-processing is done including collection of paperwork and payment of fees before these are sent to the consular posts overseas for adjudication.

Certain petitions are held by the NVC for a long period of time while awaiting for their priority date to become current. During this waiting period, it is important to communicate to the NVC certain changes that will happen to either the petitioner or the beneficiary like a change of address, change in marital or civil status, death of the petitioner, birth or adoption of children, withdrawal of petition or application, among others.

One should allow up to six weeks after the receipt of an I-797 from the USCIS before contacting the NVC pertaining to a case. During such period, the USCIS sends in all documents about the case to the NVC and the latter enters it in its database.

When sending in the needed paperwork like the civil documents, do not send the originals. Submit clear photocopies of birth certificates, marriage certificates, passport, and police clearance, for example. The only original document that has to be submitted is the I-864 Affidavit of Support. Keep the original copies of the aforementioned documents and bring them to your scheduled visa interview.

To check the status of your case, you can visit the Department of State’s Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) website. Enter your case number if you have an immigrant visa case or enter your interview location and case number if you have a nonimmigrant case. This is also the same website you can use to pay for the visa fees once the NVC sends in your fee invoice. Your case number is the alpha-numeric combination that is assigned to you and is reflected in all communications from the NVC and the USCIS.

You should promptly respond to any communications from the NVC especially when a visa number becomes available in your case. The law requires the Department of State to terminate the registration of a beneficiary who does not apply for an immigrant visa within a year after notification of visa availability.

One can send emails and mails although the former is preferred as it is more convenient. However, it is important to follow a certain format as the NVC will not respond if this is not strictly followed. Use the case number or receipt number assigned to you in the subject line. Each email must indicate the petitioner’s name, the beneficiary’s name and date of birth as well as the case number, priority date, preference category and foreign state chargeability or the consular post overseas that will adjudicate your case. These must be indicated at the very top of the email. Make your inquiry brief and avoid unnecessary background information. Avoid inquiring about multiple cases in one email.

You can likewise call the NVC hotline numbers. A new phone system has recently been installed so it increased the available phone lines that can cater to client’s inquiries by 25%.

Immigration Fees to Increase Effective Dec. 23

Effective December 23, fees for most immigration applications and petitions will increase by an average of 21 percent.

The increase will be the first in six years. A comprehensive review had determined that the USCIS was not recovering the full costs of processing immigrant benefits. Lack of congressional appropriations especially for the asylum, refugee, military naturalization services, and the SAVE program that were ordinarily reliant upon Congress’ budgetary allocation likewise affected this move.

To recover the full cost of services including costs of fraud detection and national security, customer services, case processing and providing benefits without charge to refugee and asylum applicants, the fee increases had to be imposed, said USCIS director Leon Rodriquez.

For those applying for naturalization, there will be an increase in the standard fee for Form N-400 from $595 to $640. Fee waivers will still be available to those who meet the requirements under the law. A reduced fee of $320 will be offered to naturalization applicants with family income greater than 150% and not more than 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.

For those who are claiming US citizenship due to birth abroad to US citizen parent(s) and need proof of US citizenship through Form N-600 and N-600K, there will be an increase from $600 and $550, respectively, to $1,170. This is essentially a 95% increase compared to the old schedule and one of the more substantial raises.

Fees for family-based petitions will go up as well. I-129F Application for Alien Fiancé(e) will increase from $340 to $535; I-130 Petitions for Alien Relative from $420 to $535. Under the current fee schedule, the total filing fee for a one-step, concurrent filing of Form I-130, Form I-485, Form I-765 and Form I-131 is $1,490; this will be bumped up to  $1,760. I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence will also increase from $985 to $1,140. I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence will increase from $505 to $595.

Employment-based petitions will not be exempted either. I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker will increase from $325 to $460 which is a 42% increase and one of the highest increases for this service since 2007. I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker will increase from $580 to $700.

I-601 Application for Waiver of Grounds of Excludability and I-601A Application for Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver will both increase from $585 to $930 and $630, respectively. Fees for employment authorization permits (I-765) will increase from $380 to $410. This increase will affect foreign students approved for Optional Practical Training (OPT), spouses of certain nonimmigrant visa holders as well as recipients of DACA and TPS applicants.

Biometric or fingerprinting fee will remain at $85.

Applications and petitions postmarked on or after December 23, 2016 must pay the new fees or they will not be accepted.

Disappointing Ruling on DAPA and DACA+

Without any explanation, the US Supreme Court gave Pres. Barack Obama’s immigration initiatives another blow as it denied last Oct. 3 a petition to rehear United States v. Texas, also known as the DAPA and DACA+ case.

Back on June 23, the High Court came to an even 4-4 decision on the preliminary injunction placed by the lower Texas court and upheld by the Fifth Circuit Court upon DAPA and DACA+ essentially putting a stop to these programs in the whole country. The evenly split decision came about because the High Court was missing its ninth member following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia early this year.

On July 18, the Department of Justice filed with the US Supreme Court a petition to rehear the case and argued that although it was exceedingly rare, the Supreme Court had granted a rehearing in the past where the prior decision was issued by an evenly divided court and that it “appeared likely that upon reargument a majority one way or the other might be mustered.”

It is a disappointing decision for the millions of undocumented immigrants who have been waiting for DAPA and DACA+ to provide them a reprieve from deportation and an authorization to work. Many immigration advocates are also saddened by this news.

However, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) through its President William A Stock remains optimistic. “This case is far from over. Once a more complete record of the merits of Texas’ claims is created, we are confident that when the case is once again back on the Supreme Court docket, the Court will show appropriate deference to the executive branch and not legislate from the bench by enjoining this program permanently,” said Stock.

DAPA would have temporarily deferred deportation for those who have a US citizen or LPR son or daughter as of November 20, 2014 and who have continuously resided in the US since January 1, 2010 but with no lawful immigration status. As long as they had no criminal convictions and have passed a background check, these undocumented immigrants could benefit from DAPA.

DACA+ eliminated the age requirement of DACA and pushed the arrival date to January 1, 2010. It must be recalled that DACA was first introduced by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) back in 2012. Under this program, those under 31 years old on June 15, 2012, have arrived in the US before becoming 16, have continuously resided from June 15, 2007 to the present, are either in school, have graduated or completed high school or a general education development (GED) certificate, or are honorably discharged veterans of the US Coast Guard or US Armed Forces and have not been convicted of a felony could have deferred action or deferred deportation.

With immigration policy being among the salient battleground in this year’s presidential elections—with the two parties clutching the opposite ends of the pole, undocumented immigrants cannot rest easy. While Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton promises to continue Pres. Obama’s immigration initiatives, the denial of the rehearing could also affect any further steps she may take. There is also Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s incessant vow to put a stop to Pres. Obama’s initiatives because of what he deems as a railroading of the country’s immigration laws.

Renewing Green Card While Naturalization is Pending

A lawful permanent resident (LPR) who wishes to apply for naturalization should submit his N-400 application while his green card still has at least six (6) months of validity. This is to avoid having to pay the filing fee and biometric fee amounting to $450 for his green card renewal.

While LPRs or green card holders who have resided here in the US for at least 5 years (3 years if married to US citizen) and have met all other requirements for US naturalization can already apply for US citizenship, for some reasons, some wait longer before they apply. A few wait until their ten-year green card is about to expire to apply for naturalization.

It is worth noting that the I-551 or the permanent resident card expires every ten years. To those who want to continue to become green card holders and stay that way, they need to file an I-90 six months before its expiration date.

The USCIS Field Operations Directorate recently clarified in a teleconference that a naturalization applicant with a pending N-400 application must apply for a renewal of his green card if it will expire within six (6) months. This means that the naturalization applicant needs to submit an I-90 with the corresponding filing fees. USCIS will issue an Alien Documentary Identification and Telecommunication (ADIT) stamp as temporary proof of permanent residence upon showing of an I-90 receipt notice.

Take note that if your green card has already expired, you may encounter problems when you travel, seek or keep employment or apply for public benefits.

In addition, not carrying a valid green card is considered a misdemeanor. Section 264 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) states, “Every alien in the United States . . . shall be issued a certificate of alien registration or an alien registration receipt card in such form and manner and at such time as shall be prescribed under regulations . . Every alien, eighteen years of age and over, shall at all times carry with him and have in his personal possession any certificate of alien registration or alien registration receipt card issued to him . . .. Any alien who fails to comply with these provisions shall be guilty of a misdemeanor  …” The punishment for this misdemeanor is a fine of $100 and/or imprisonment for not more than 30 days.

If an LPR has a criminal record he may be putting himself at risk when he renews his green card. He should consult an immigration attorney before submitting his I-90 application. If his crime is a ground for deportation, he may be placed under removal proceedings and will appear before an immigration judge.

Crimes that may subject a person to deportation include aggravated felony, crimes involving drugs, domestic violence, crimes involving moral turpitude and sex crimes.

This procedure for renewing an expired green card does not apply to those who obtained conditional residence on account of their marriage to US citizens or lawful permanent residents or on account of their EB-5 commercial enterprise and financial investment. Conditional residents are issued a green card that is valid for two years. In this case, they need to file a different form, which is I-751 to Remove the Conditions of their green card if they obtained it through marriage or I-829 if they obtained it through EB-5 investment.

Immigration Fraud and the U Visa

The U visa is a temporary visa granted to victims of certain criminal activities which occurred in the United States, US territory or US military installation. It is granted to victims who suffered substantial mental or physical abuse as a result of the criminal activity and who, as a result of being at the receiving end of such an unfortunate circumstance, possess credible and reliable information about the criminal activity.

It is important that the victim is helpful, is being helpful or is likely to be helpful in the course of the investigation and prosecution of the criminal activity. In recent years, USCIS has granted 10,000 U visas yearly, which is the cap provided by Congress. It has done a lot in the prosecution of offenses, especially those committed against vulnerable undocumented immigrants.

Before this visa, undocumented immigrants were largely placed in very disadvantageous positions because they could not report the crime for fear of being deported due to their immigration status or lack thereof and they could not seek assistance from the authority for fear of being harmed even more by the perpetrators or abusers.  Especially in domestic abuse or sexual abuse cases, the situation would persist because the perpetrator would use the lack of immigration status as a leverage to pin the victims down.

When this was created by Congress with the passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act in October 2000, they listed the following qualifying crimes: abduction, abusive sexual contact, blackmail, domestic violence, extortion, false imprisonment, female genital mutilation, felonious assault, fraud in foreign labor contracting, hostage, incest, involuntary servitude, kidnapping, manslaughter, murder, obstruction of justice, peonage, perjury, prostution, rape, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, slave trade, stalking, torture, trafficking, witness tampering, unlawful criminal restraint, and other related crimes which includes any similar activity where the elements of the crimes are substantially similar. It also includes the attempt, conspiracy or solicitation to commit any of the aforesaid crimes.

Immigration services fraud is not specifically included in the list of qualifying criminal activities but it could potentially fit in the categories of witness tampering, obstruction of justice or perjury.

Recently, lawyers and immigration advocates have lobbied for the inclusion of immigration services fraud in the list. Immigration services fraud is the crime of taking advantage of one’s lack of knowledge and understanding of the intricacies of the US immigration law and promising to render services which are fraudulent, unauthorized or rendering nothing at all.

Immigration services fraud come in different forms. The popular one is notario fraud, which is claiming to provide immigration services, without actually being qualified to offer such assistance.

Another form of immigration services fraud is the visa lottery scam, which is promising immigrants that they will have a better chance of winning the visa lottery, or offering to enter them in the lottery if they pay a fee which are oftentimes exorbitant when in actuality, USCIS does not collect any fees to be entered into said lottery.

Recently, a company with a Las Vegas address has victimized many Filipinos in the Metropolitan New York area promising them quick green card for a fee of $15,000 each.

Evidently, these practices prey upon the most vulnerable sector of immigrants. In the hopes of one day legalizing their status here in the US, undocumented immigrants rely upon the promises of these services not knowing that they are being taken advantage of.

Obtaining an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN)

Undocumented immigrants may need to prove, sometime in the future, how long they have been in the US and a good way to provide that proof is to obtain a Tax Identification Number (ITIN) and pay their taxes.

The first thing one should understand is that ITINs are numbers provided for tax purposes only. This is issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to people who are ineligible to get a Social Security Number (SSN) to ensure that they will still be able to pay their taxes. It does not confer an immigration status nor provide work authorization.

It cannot be used to track those who are unlawfully in the US or enforce immigration policies. In fact, because privacy is a very important tenet in taxation, the IRS is not allowed to share any taxpayer information to any other government agencies except to the Treasury Department in tax investigations or non-criminal tax investigations.

The issuance of ITINs has been criticized as allowing undocumented foreign nationals to blend in with the rest of the society without any regard to whether they are potential terrorists or whether they may endanger the safety and security of the community. They subvert immigration policies, the critics claim.

It cannot be denied, however, that through the issuance of the ITINs since 1996, the government was able to build a bigger tax base by including even undocumented immigrants and those who are here lawfully but are not able to get SSNs, in the collection of taxes. In 2010, more than 3 million people paid more than $870 million in income taxes using ITINs and in 2012, undocumented immigrants were able to contribute to the US’s coffers $11.8 billion in both state and local taxes.

Aside from undocumented immigrants, non-resident foreign nationals who have US-based businesses and who receive taxable income from such businesses are also able to pay their corresponding tax obligations through the ITINs. Foreign students who qualify as residents (based on days they are present in the US) as well as dependents or spouses of foreign nationals on temporary visas can also pay their taxes here through the ITINs since they cannot get a SSN.

As for undocumented immigrants, the ITINs have also been proven useful not only in establishing their length of stay here in the US but also their good moral character. Compliance with federal tax laws can help establish good moral character which is an important factor if one hopes to legalize his immigration status. Having tax returns with one’s ITIN on file with the IRS is an excellent form of documentation.

In addition to ITINs being useful for documentation purposes, it likewise confers added benefits especially those that can be accessed by taxpayers. For example, immigrant taxpayers can get Child Tax Credit worth as much as $1,000 per qualifying child. They can use the ITIN in opening bank accounts and in getting a driver’s license in some states, for example.

ITIN holders are not eligible for social security benefits or the Earned Income Tax credits. But the income reported with the ITIN may be credited to the benefits they will be eligible to receive once they become lawful permanent residents in the future.

In order to apply for an ITIN, one needs to submit a filled out W-7 form, along with a completed tax return to any IRS office. They need to include proof of identity and foreign status.

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