Seguritan US Immigration Articles

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Thus, to avoid paying the DACA fees with no guarantee that it will not be rescinded, it may be best to defer any new initial DACA application until Trump has completely laid down his stand on the matter.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.

Filing for Adjustment Even if Visa Not Immediately Available

This October which is the start of fiscal year 2017, adjustment of status applications may be filed even if a visa number is not immediately available for the priority date of the applicant. The date of filing the application rather than the date when a visa number is available determines when to file.

This is good news to those who have been waiting for a long time for their priority dates to become current. A pending adjustment application entitles the applicant to work authorization and travel permit.

Every year, there is a limit to the number of immigrant visas issued to various visa categories except those that do not need to be on the wait list like immediate relatives of US citizens since an immigrant visa is always available to them.

Family-based immigrant visas are capped at 226,000 and employment-based immigrant visas are capped at 140,000 annually. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Department of State (DOS) have established a guide to let applicants know when visa numbers will be available for their particular category.

As a guide, the DOS releases a visa bulletin every month. This lists the availability of immigrant visa numbers and likewise shows the backlogs in each category for a given month. The visa bulletin also shows when an application for adjustment of status (green card application) can be filed.

Up until last year, an application for adjustment of status could only be filed if the visa petitioner’s priority date was earlier than the cut-off date in a particular category. A priority date is generally the date when a relative or employer filed an immigrant visa petition on behalf of the beneficiary.

Starting in October 2015, the visa bulletin has adopted two charts per visa preference category— the Final Action Dates and the Dates for Filing Applications. Essentially, the Final Action Dates indicate when a visa is immediately available and the Dates for Filing Applications are the earliest dates when applicants may be able to apply. For purposes of adjustment of status application, the USCIS said that it will announce every month which of these two charts will be used to determine when application to adjust status may be submitted.

Ever since the start of this new revision, USCIS has used the Final Action Dates to indicate when foreign nationals can submit their application to adjust status (green card application). The Dates for Filing Applications have been used only to notify applicants as to when they can start assembling their documents for submission to the National Visa Center (NVC).

However, for the first month of the new fiscal year the USCIS has announced that adjustment applicants must use the Dates for Filing Applications. This means that they can file for adjustment without waiting for the availability of visa numbers.

If their priority date is earlier than the cut-off date in the chart for Dates of Filing Applications they may file for adjustment of status. For employment-based visa categories, EB-1 is now current worldwide. EB-2 is also current worldwide except for China and India. EB-3 is also current worldwide although the Philippines remains oversubscribed. For the Philippines, EB-3 shows a cut-off date of Sept. 1, 2013 which is about 34 months ahead of the Final Action Date.

For the family-based visa preference, the cut-off date for F1 for the Philippines is May 1, 2006; F2A is November 22, 2015 and F2B is February 1, 2007. The cut-off date for the F3 is January 1, 1995 and for the F4, it is April 1, 1994.

 

Automatic Acquisition of Citizenship After Birth

Children born outside the US are automatically US citizens provided they meet all the requirements under the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (CCA).

The statutory requirements are: (1) at least one parent is a U.S. citizen either by birth or by naturalization; (2) the child is under 18 years old; (3) the child is a lawful permanent resident (green card holder); and (4) the child is residing in the US in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent.

The lawful permanent resident requirement is not satisfied if the child was not issued his green card before he turned 18 even though he had applied for it and was assured that he would get it before he turned 18 but it was delayed due to bureaucratic errors committed by the USCIS.

In a recent case, a lawful permanent resident (LPR) was ordered removed by an Immigration Judge due to a previous conviction. He appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals but his appeal was dismissed. He then filed a petition for review with the US Court of Appeals.

He claimed that he was not subject to removal because he became a permanent resident before he turned 18 and therefore automatically became a US citizen under the CCA.

He was born abroad on March 29, 1983. He came to the US with his father who later naturalized and became a US citizen in 1997. He then applied for his lawful permanent resident status. However, although he submitted his application for adjustment of status before he turned 18, it was not until a few years later that his green card was issued.

So, the issue was when he became a lawful permanent resident. If he became a lawful permanent resident before he turned 18 years old, he then automatically became a US citizen under the CCA. If, however, he became a lawful permanent resident after turning 18, he was ineligible for automatic citizenship under the CCA.

The child submitted his application for lawful permanent resident status in 1997, before he turned 18. When he was 17 years old, he was interviewed by a USCIS officer and was given a signed I-89 Form. He was also informed during the said interview that he would receive his green card in three months. Unfortunately, USCIS delayed the issuance of his card for four years and issued it in 2004.

The question raised in the case was: did he really become a US citizen prior to his 18th birthday? The law states that an alien becomes a lawful permanent resident on the date the order of the Attorney General approving the application for adjustment of status is made. In other words, it is as of the date of the order approving the adjustment of status. In this case, it was when they formally gave him his green card in 2004.

He argued that the government should be estopped from placing him in removal proceedings because the USCIS caused the unreasonable delay in the issuance of his green card which cost him the opportunity to obtain US citizenship. Placing one in estoppel means that said party is not allowed to deny or allege certain facts because of said party’s previous conduct, allegation or denial. In this case, because the US government caused the delay in the issuance of the green card, it could not claim that the petitioner did not meet all the requirements for him to be considered as a lawful permanent resident and ultimately, cannot deny him of his automatic US citizenship.

The US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals however said that they cannot estop the government on the facts of the case. It sought guidance from a similar case and said “to state a cause of action for estoppel against the government, a private party must allege more than mere negligence, delay, inaction, or failure to follow an internal agency guideline. Instead, the petitioner must establish, among other things, affirmative misconduct of the government.” In this case, he failed to provide evidence of affirmative misconduct on the part of the government, thus his petition was denied.

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.

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