Monday, February 28, 2011

Immigration Rights | Same-Sex Couples

As long as a marriage is not fraudulent - and immigration will scrutinize information to weed out fraudulent claims - and there are no other reasons for exclusion, an American citizen may bring a foreign spouse into the US because he or she is considered a qualifying "immediate relative."

Also, lawful permanent residents - green card holders - may bring a spouse into the US on a permanent basis. But this is subject to a quota system which can take years.

If you are a homosexual and your partner is a foreign national living abroad, then your opportunities to permanently bring your partner into the US plummet. True, the trend is that some states legally recognize the rights of same-sex couples. But immigration law, which is federal law, does not protect you.

Recently, the State Department carved a very narrow exception for same-sex partners. The catch? The exception protects diplomats only.

If you are a diplomat that is posted in the US, then your foreign same-sex partner may get a visa to get into the United States.

What would typical same-sex couples do to stay united? Your best bet is to immigrate into the US on other grounds, especially if you can find a US employer and you intend to work and live in the US permanently. See an immigration lawyer to look at alternative solutions.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Immigration Rights | USCIS Website

Lawyers who practice immigration law always use the USCIS webiste.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website provides access to all the right immigration forms. There are also articles and alerts to instruct people as to where they need to go.

But do not use USCIS as a substitute for complicated immigration issues. I hear from many people who get information from USCIS but fail to get the results they want. Often there are several reasons to describe poor results, which good lawyers who practice immigration law can detect.

The USCIS website cannot easily communicate immigration alternatives. Maybe a person qualifies for a certain type of visa, but a better visa may be available. For example, there are several different visas available in employment circumstances with unique benefits and risks.

Also, a website does not have an ability to organize your documents if you must submit supporting evidence. Law in America requires documentation, and many people fail to provide it in a manner favorable to USCIS.

In addition to organization, an ability to link the facts from the information to the relevant immigration law is crucial. A good immigration lawyer has the capacity and resources to do this.

So, if you have immigration concerns, then the USCIS website is the place for you! But be careful when you apply what you learn to what you submit, because you may not see the larger picture.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Immigration Rights | Driver Licenses Debate

Not many states grant drivers' licenses to undocumented immigrants. Washington, New Mexico, and Utah are the only states that grant the licenses.

Earlier this week, the Washington State legislature introduced a number of bills to potentially prevent these licenses.

When I am not working as a lawyer on immigration issues, I enjoy taking a hard look at issues that affect our country. The following is an imaginary discussion of the pros and cons of the proposed Washington bills.

Advocate in favor of the new legislation: Awarding a license to undocumented immigrants rewards a group of people who entered into the US without lawful inspection. We want to encourage obedience to our laws, not reward illegal behavior.

Someone against the new legislation: How severe should the punishment be for undocumented immigrants? Taking away someone's driver's license takes away a person's freedom. Taking away someone's license for unlawful entry into the US is not an appropriate punishment. Should an average American be put in prison for running a red light? A punishment must be reasonable.

Pro: Unlawful entry is a serious problem and we need strict laws to discourage it. Our country has around 13 million undocumented immigrants. In the recession, we need to hold jobs open for Americans first, immigrants second. If driving licenses repel immigrants, then we save jobs.

Against: First, America is a nation founded on immigrants, both legal and illegal immigrants, so a high number of undocumented immigrants does not undermine America's standing. Our society has benefited from the differences and hard work many immigrants bring to the US. Many undocumented immigrants do labor-intensive jobs that Americans will not typically do. The money they earn and spend is deserved and helpful to our economy.

Pro: No, immigrants take away jobs that Americans have a right to get. America is also a nation that values the law. We need to enforce our immigration laws, else we undermine our justice system.

Against: If undocumented immigrants are able to get drivers' licenses, then they may feel more responsible to obey laws and pay taxes with an ITIN number.

Pro: We can all use tax dollars, but most undocumented immigrants won't pay them. One major reason is because they want to keep a low profile. Sending in a tax form requires disclosure, even if there is confidentiality protections for ITIN holders.

Against: We should focus our energies on getting undocumented immigrants to come of the shadow and pay taxes. We cannot possibly deport 13 million people. Many of these people are decent, hard-working people who follow the law more closely than American citizens . . .

Let's keep talking.