Update: On June 5, 2014, the government announced the procedure for applying to renew DACA status. See my blog post on this topic for more information.
On June 15, 2012, the Obama administration announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to provide temporary relief from the threat of deportation for certain immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. To qualify, a person must:
- Have been under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
- Have come to the United States before reaching 16 years of age;
- Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the time of application;
- Have been physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of application;
- Have entered without inspection before June 15, 2012 or been out of lawful status as of June 15, 2012;
- Be currently in school, have graduated or completed high school or have received a general education development (GED) certificate, or be an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
- Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and/or not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
Once granted, DACA status lasts for two years and is renewable. DACA is NOT lawful status, is NOT permanent, and does NOT give a person any right to remain in the U.S. For more information, see the following:
- On August 14th, 2013, The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the American Immigration Council (AIC), the Immigration Advocates Network (IAN), and the Own the Dream campaign jointly announced the PocketDACA app for smartphones, available for download on iTunes and Google Play.
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) maintains a website on the DACA program, including a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) that provide official guidance.
- The Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) has created an invaluable set of informational and screening documents related to the program, available here.
- The American Immigration Council (AIC), jointly with the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), has issued an advisory on the program, available for download here.
“Citizenship” is a blanket term for a variety of issues, including:
- Naturalization – the process of becoming a U.S. citizen;
- Expedited citizenship for certain children of U.S. citizens;
- Automatic citizenship for certain children of U.S. citizens;
- Proceedings to strip a person of U.S. citizenship; and,
- Issues involving proof of U.S. citizenship, among others.
Be sure to check out my blog posts on citizenship topics:
Immigrant Visas [TOP]
Immigrant visas are for immigrants who plan to reside in the U.S. and result in the government issuing a “green card” for lawful permanent residence in the U.S. following the person’s admission to the country. This class of visas includes family and employment visas, as well as certain other types. The U.S. Department of State has a list of immigrant-visa categories here.
Fiancée/Fiancé Visas [TOP]
Also known as “K” visas, visas in this category grant temporary permission for the fiancées or fiancés of U.S. citizens to enter the U.S. temporarily for the purpose of marrying and applying for permanent residence. As a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in United States v. Windsor, same-sex relationships may now form the basis for fiancée/fiancé visa petitions (if the marriage is otherwise valid in the place where it is to be performed).
Adjustment of Status (AOS) [TOP]
Adjustment of Status (AOS) is a procedure that allows certain non-citizens already present in the U.S. to apply for a green card without leaving the country and applying at a foreign consulate; in some cases, AOS is available to non-citizens not in legal status.
Non-immigrant Visas [TOP]
Non-immigrant visas are available to non-citizens who can demonstrate that they do not intend to remain in the U.S. permanently (non-immigrant intent). There are many categories of non-immigrant visas, and the U.S. Department of State maintains an interactive list of non-immigrant visas here.
Stateside (Provisional) Waivers [TOP]
Be sure to check out my detailed blog posts on this waiver type:
A non-citizen may need a waiver of inadmissibility in certain circumstances where he or she would otherwise not be allowed to enter or remain in the U.S. Common issues leading to the need for a waiver include the following:
- Six months or more of unlawful presence in the U.S.;
- Certain criminal grounds of inadmissibility:
- Conviction or commission of a “crime involving moral turpitude” (a complicated term of art requiring careful legal interpretation);
- A single offense of possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana;
- Multiple convictions with an aggregate sentence to imprisonment of 5 years or more;
- Prostitution and/or “commercialized vice;” and,
- Immigration fraud or misrepresentation
These are only examples of the waiver types available; there are many other types. Cases requiring waivers tend to be complicated, requiring careful application of legal principles to the facts of the individual case and, often, specialized legal assistance by an attorney with experience in the particular type of waiver for which the non-citizen is applying. Waivers are available in a variety of settings, including for applicants at foreign consulates, non-citizens in removal proceedings, and non-citizens seeking to adjust status while inside the U.S., among others.
The U.S. Department of State has published a chart listing the types of waivers available to non-citizens who would otherwise be inadmissible here (Foreign Affairs Manual, 9 FAM 40.6).
Immigration Court [TOP]
Persons in removal proceedings (also known as “deportation” or “exclusion” proceedings) should be represented by an attorney, as it is difficult for anyone to represent him or herself. Unfortunately, many people are unable to retain an attorney for one reason or another, and others end up paying large sums of money to incompetent or dishonest attorneys. Peter Markowitz, a law professor at Benjamin N. Cardozo Law School, has written a revealing article addressing the multitude of problems relating to legal representation in the immigration-court system. For information on immigration detention, see the “resources” section of my website.
(Non-immigrant) Treaty Trader & Investor Visas [TOP]
“E” visas are nonimmigrant visas available to certain investors and international “traders” from countries with which the U.S. has concluded treaties of commerce and navigation; thus, these visas are sometimes also known as “treaty” visas. The Department of State maintains a list of “treaty countries” here, including the visa type(s) available (E-1 indicates a trader visa and E-2 an investor visa). The “trader” classification requires that you engage in substantial trade in qualifying areas, principally occurring between the U.S. and the treaty country. The “investor” classification requires that you invest a substantial amount of capital in an enterprise in the U.S. “Essential employees” of qualifying firms conducting such trade or receiving such investment may also qualify for these visas, and derivative visas are also available for certain family members. Resources on these visa type:
- The U.S. Dept. of State’s informational page;
- The USCIS E-1 and E-2 visa pages; and,
- The websites of U.S. consulates for treaty countries (for example, the Vancouver consulate lists requirements for Canadian applicants here and the Caracas embassy has a useful FAQ page).
A special type of E visa, the E-3, is available only to Australian nationals and their derivatives. This visa type requires that your purpose in traveling to the U.S. be solely to engage in a “specialty occupation” requiring “theoretical and practical application of a body of knowledge in professional fields” and, at a minimum, a bachelor’s degree or equivalent. In case you’re wondering, there is no definitive list of specialty occupations, and determining whether your line of work qualifies can be somewhat involved. Helpfully, the definition is the same as that for H-1B Specialty Occupation visas, and most of the information you will find on the subject will be targeted at H-1B applicants. Here are some resources on this visa type:
- The Canberra embassy maintains an informational page on E-3 visas.
- USCIS also has a page on E-3s.
- The University of Michigan’s International Center has a useful page on these visas.
Another class of E visa will be available until December 2014 for certain foreign, long-term investors in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) (see the USCIS website here) as part of the CNMI’s transition to U.S. immigration laws.
Business Immigration [TOP]
Asylum & Other Humanitarian Relief [TOP]
Crime Victims [TOP]
Visas are available for certain victims of crimes who cooperate with law enforcement. “T” visas may be available to victims of “severe” forms of human trafficking, while “U” visas may be available to victims who have suffered “substantial physical or mental abuse” as a result of qualifying criminal activity. Both types of visas provide temporary, nonimmigrant status to grantees, along with eligibility for permanent residence after three years in nonimmigrant status. These visas require certifications/approvals from various government agencies and plenty of complicated lawyering. In case you’re interested, the names “T” and “U” come from the designations of the respective subparagraphs under section 101(a)(15) of the Immigration and Nationality Act describing these visas. Here are a few resources:
- USCIS resource page for victims of human trafficking and other crimes;
- Department of State and USCIS pages on T visas;
- The Immigration Legal Resource Center’s page on U visas, including a link to a manual for persons in immigration detention without legal representation; and
- USCIS page on U visas.
Criminal Advisements [TOP]
A criminal advisement from an immigration attorney is important for any non-citizen facing criminal proceedings, because certain arrests, charges, and convictions can have severe immigration consequences. Useful resources for lawyers and researchers include:
- The Immigrant Legal Resource Center’s webpage; and,
- The American Immigration Council’s Immigrant Defense Project website.
I handle a wide variety of immigration issues, and the above is a non-exclusive list. I am happy to speak with you about your particular immigration issue. If for anyone reason I cannot represent you, I can provide referrals to other attorneys.