Seguritan US Immigration Articles

Consequences of Failing to Maintain Non-immigrant Status

For aliens who entered the U.S. on a non-immigrant visa, it is important for them to maintain their status and to engage only in activities consistent with the status. Aliens who fail to maintain status become deportable. They can neither change to said non-immigrant status nor apply for adjustment of status to permanent residence.

A foreign national who wishes to apply for admission into the U.S. generally applies for a visa at a U.S. consulate overseas. There are several types of visa classifications depending upon their specific purpose. Aliens who wish to come to the U.S. for pleasure are issued a B-2 visa. They are generally allowed three (3) to six (6) months to stay with a possibility to extend their status for another six (6) months.

Once a foreign national is legally admitted into the U.S., it is the date on the I-94 that governs his legal immigration status and the duration of his authorized stay in the U.S. The I-94 card is no longer issued. The foreign national can access the most recent I-94 admission record through the I-94 website. If the alien overstays or remains in the U.S. beyond the date on the I-94, the person becomes out of status.

If they overstay for six (6) months or more, they are subject to the three-year bar. If they overstay one year or more, the bar extends to ten years. The three or ten year bar means that if they leave they cannot reenter the U.S. until after three or ten years of stay abroad.

If a non-immigrant decides to pursue a different purpose or engage in another activity in the U.S., he has to apply for a change of status. An example is a person who entered as a student with an F-1 visa gets a job offer after finishing his/her studies in the U.S. Given the change of purpose of the stay in the U.S. from studying to working, the prospective employer may petition for a change of status on his behalf from F-1 to H-1B.

Likewise, a person who originally came as a tourist with a B-2 visa to visit family and friends may later on want to pursue studies in the U.S. Instead of going back to his country to apply for a new F-1 visa, the person can opt to apply for a change of status to F-1 with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

An alien on a B-2 visa who files Form I-539 to change status to student, may not start classes prior to its approval. An F-1 student fails to maintain his status if he fails to maintain a full course of study or if he transfers schools without permission.

An F-1 student who decides to work in the U.S. may not begin working before the Form I-129 petition filed by the employer is approved. Also temporary workers fail to maintain status if they change jobs without authorization. Those who work without authorization also fail to maintain their status.

The alien is authorized to engage in activities consistent with the status he is seeking only through the formal USCIS approval of the application to change status. If the alien took on activities not allowed under his current status, the application will most likely be denied. It is therefore important that the non-immigrant not violate the conditions of his non-immigrant visa/status.

Prepare for H-1B Filing Now

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will once again open its doors to H-1B cap applications and considering that the applications for last fiscal year was 233,000, it is safe to assume that it will exceed this figure this year.

Ultimately, the applications are expected to exceed the quota which is at 65,000 for foreign workers in specialty occupations and 20,000 for graduates with advanced degrees from the US. And if the H-1B petitions go beyond the cap, the USCIS will conduct a lottery to determine which petitions will make it to the cap.

With that in mind, it is best to be prepared early to avoid delays. US companies and employers intending to hire foreign workers must start working on all the paper works for the H-1B petitions now to be ready for the April 1 filing.

For instance, the approval and certification of the labor condition application (LCA) with the Department of Labor (DOL) in itself takes about seven business days and that should be considered in the timeframe. In fact, it is recommended that LCAs be prepared and submitted to the DOL as early as February.

It is also best to be ready with all necessary documentations because the USCIS will issue a Request For Evidence (RFE) if your petition is not sufficient to grant said request. When RFEs are issued, this can delay the approval of the petition sometimes way beyond the October 1 start day.

RFEs are often about the position open for H-1B workers, the qualifications and degree held by said worker and whether that matches with what is desired by the company. Sometimes it also looks into whether the candidate’s education and/or experience are equivalent to a US bachelor’s degree.

Petitions not selected during the lottery will be rejected. The petition and the fee will be returned except in cases of multiple filings. Thus, it is advisable not to file multiple petitions for one H-1B worker because that can result in the denial of all petitions and the fees paid will not be refunded. Related employers such as parent and subsidiary companies, however, are not precluded from filing petitions on behalf of the same H-1B so long as it is for different positions and based on legitimate needs of the employers.

H-1B petitions may also be accompanied with a request for premium processing but this will not increase the probability of getting an H-1B number. It will, however, be issued receipts faster than those under regular processing and in case the USCIS conducts a lottery, petitions filed under premium processing will know the results more quickly.

In preparing the H-1B petition, employers must indicate their true intention regarding the work site of the H-1B worker. If the H-1B worker will not work at their headquarters but in a client worksite, this fact must be stated in the petition. Criminal charges have been filed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) against employers for stating anything other than the truth.

An employer who intends to assign the H-1B worker in another work site on October 1 should state it in the petition and the Labor Condition Application (LCA) even if the employer is still unable to specify the worksite at this time.

If the H-1B petition comes with a request for change of status, the petition must be accompanied with documentary evidence of the nonimmigrant status of the beneficiary through September 30, 2016.

Work authorization for F-1 students under Optional Practical Training (OPT) who have timely filed an H-1B petition and requested for change of status shall be extended until September 30 when the petition is approved or while the petition is pending. Students who completed their OPT but are within valid grace period will receive automatic extension of their authorized stay. However, they will not be allowed to work during the period.

If you have everything and all necessary documentations, it is best to file the H-1B petition on March 31 to be received at the USCIS by overnight mail delivery on April 1.

Lawful Admission Required for Adjustment of Status

One of the requirements for adjustment of status is the alien’s lawful admission to the United States. This means that the alien must have been inspected, admitted or paroled into the US.The Immigration Nationality Act (INA) defines the terms “admitted” and “admission” as “the lawful entry of a noncitizen following inspection and authorization by an immigration officer.”

For foreign nationals who enter the US by air or sea and who are processed by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), lawful admission is generally easier to demonstrate as they are normally issued an I-94 Form upon entry.

Since April 2013, the CBP no longer issued the paper I-94 and created an electronic I-94 Form based on the foreign national’s travel documents. The electronic Form I-94 may be printed by accessing the CBP’s website. Aside from the I-94, the CBP office also makes an annotated admission stamp on the foreign national’s passport which may also serve as proof of lawful admission.

However, for those travelling by land, there have been instances when border officials simply “wave through” foreign nationals who enter the US by car without asking any questions. Was there lawful admission in this case?

In a 1980 case, the BIA held that an alien who was “waved through” and who did not make a false claim to citizenship was “inspected” and “admitted” to the US for purposes of adjustment of status. In that case, the alien was a passenger in a car entering the US. The border official waved them through after questioning the driver. She was not asked any question nor did she volunteer any information.

The BIA reasoned that the noncitizen was “inspected” when she physically presented herself for questioning and did not make a false claim to citizenship and she was “admitted” when the officer permitted her to enter the United States.

In 1996, Congress enacted the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) and amended the INA to define the meaning of “admitted” as being “the lawful entry of a noncitizen following inspection and authorization by an immigration officer.”

However, the Board reaffirmed its earlier decision. The Board held that “lawful entry” did not require that the entry be substantially regular; it only had to be procedurally regular. In this case, the noncitizen was also a passenger of a car crossing the US-Mexico border. She was not asked any questions and was waved through by the border official. It held that, just like in an earlier case, the admission was procedurally regular and met the definition of “admission” under the INA.

Thus, if a noncitizen does not make false claim to citizenship, is not asked any questions, does not volunteer any information, and is waved through by a border official, he has been “admitted” even if he did not have valid entry documents.

The noncitizen does not gain lawful status upon entry in the United States and is still removable for being “inadmissible at the time of entry”. However, since the noncitizen was “admitted”, he is eligible for immigration benefits, such as adjustment of status in the US, if the noncitizen later on marries a US citizen, subject to other requirements under the law.

Where primary proof of lawful admission is not available such as in the case of the noncitizen who was waved through, secondary evidence may be submitted. Secondary evidence may include affidavits regarding admission.

A request for evidence (RFE) is expected when secondary evidence of lawful admission is submitted. A timely response to the RFE must be submitted even if the requested documents have already been initially submitted.

Acquiring and Deriving U.S. Citizenship

It is common knowledge that birth in the U.S. gives rise to U.S. citizenship and that foreign-born nationals can become U.S. citizens by naturalization, but most people are not aware of the other ways of acquiring U.S. citizenship. As a result, there are many individuals who were born abroad but have no idea that they may actually be U.S. citizens.

Citizenship is acquired through birth in the U.S. or by being born to U.S. citizen (USC) parents. A foreign-born child may also derive citizenship through the naturalization of a parent.

Generally speaking, a number of factors must be considered to determine if an individual has a claim of acquired citizenship. These include the date of birth of the child; the citizenship of the parents; the parents’ birth dates; whether the child was born in or out of wedlock; whether the parents resided in the U.S. and for how long; and whether the child resided in the U.S. and for how long.

Depending on the law in place at the time of the child’s birth, the USC parent of the child must have resided or been physically present in the U.S. for the requisite period of time before the parent can “transmit” citizenship to the child.

For example, from December 24, 1952 onwards, if a child is born to two USC parents and at least one of the parents had prior residence in the U.S., the child is a USC at birth.

On the other hand, if only one parent is a USC, getting the answer is a bit complicated. For citizenship to be transmitted to the child, the USC parent must have been physically present in the U.S. for a certain number of years, some of which must have been after the parent was fourteen years old. If the child was born before November 14, 1986, the required physical presence of the parent is 10 years, 2 of which after age 14. If the child was born after that date, only 5 years of physical presence is required, 2 of which should be after age 14.

Residence, for this purpose refers to the principal dwelling place of a person without regard to intent. The parent’s actual residence and place of abode must be in the U.S., although time spent in the U.S. before naturalization, regardless of the parent’s legal status, is counted towards the physical presence requirement.

If the child was born out of wedlock, the answer will depend on when the child was born, whether it was the mother or the father who was a USC, and if the father was the USC whether the child was legitimated.

For instance, after December 24, 1952 a child born to a USC mother is a USC at birth if the mother had one year of continuous presence in the U.S. If it was the father who was the USC, paternity must be established before the child reaches a certain age and the legitimation must be valid according to the law of the domicile of the child or the father, whether that is inside or outside the U.S.

Derivation of citizenship is possible if one or both of the parents became naturalized citizens before the child’s 18th birthday.

If only one parent naturalized, one needs to look at the law in effect at the time of the last applicable event. If child turned 18 before February 27, 2001, he may only derive citizenship if the parents divorced or legally separated and he was in the legal custody of the naturalized parent, or if the other parent was deceased.

If the child turned 18 on or after February 27, 2001 when the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 took effect, the child derives U.S. citizenship if he is under 18 years of age, is residing in the U.S. pursuant to a lawful admission for permanent residency; and the child is in the legal and physical custody of the USC parent.

On the other hand, the child can easily establish derived citizenship if both parents were naturalized before the he turned 18 years old and the he himself became a lawful permanent resident (LPR) by that age.

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