USCIS Announces Changes to Application for Naturalization

On February 4, 2014, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced changes to the Form N-400, Application for Naturalization (citizenship). The form has doubled in length and is now 21 pages. The increase in length is due, in part, to additional questions related to determinations about good moral character and national security. 


Beginning on May 5, 2014, USCIS will only accept the new (09/13/2013) edition of the Form N-400. It is anticipated that these changes will make it more challenging for applicants and those who help applicants with naturalization. 

For a permanent resident thinking about becoming a citizen – now may be a good time to get started and avoid having to deal with the longer form. If you have any questions about the process of naturalization or need assistance in completing the application, please feel free to call and schedule an appointment by calling the office at 616-233-9300.
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Testimonial from Richard and Jessica

Robert Mirque was the lawyer my wife and I chose to help us through the minefield of immigration into the USA. I have a minor drug-related criminal record, and I was applying for a marriage based Adjustment of Status (I-485), and Employment Authorization Document (I-765), and a Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility (I-601).


Robert explained everything to us very thoroughly and was reassuring and knowledgeable throughout. He was there to answer any questions we had, and even visited us at our home on a Sunday, which is almost an hour away from his offices! He also offered to join us when we went for our Adjustment of Status interview with the USCIS, which was a 6-hour round trip and a whole lot of waiting around.

He ensured that we had all our applications filed on time, and that every “i” was dotted and every “t” crossed.

Robert projected a relaxed, confident demeanor from start to finish, and this helped us a great deal with our own confidence levels.

In short, we would not hesitate to recommend the law offices of Robert F. Mirque, Jr. He did a fantastic job for us and he would do the same for you too.

Richard and Jessica W.
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It’s always nice to hear from clients like Richard and Jessica. It reminds me of why I’m doing what I’m doing – to help people achieve their dream and to provide them the best possible value for their money.

If you have an immigration need, call my office to schedule an “Immigration Status Strategy Meeting” where we will: 1) discuss your current immigration status; 2) review your immigration goals; and 3) outline and map the ways we can get you there. If you mention that you saw this on my website, I will waive the consultation fee of $315.00. My office telephone number is 616-233-9300.
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DHS Announces Re-designation and 18-Month Extension of TPS for Syria

The Department of Homeland Security has re-designated Syria for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and has extended the existing TPS designation for the country from October 1, 2013 to March 31, 2015. This allows eligible nationals of Syria to register or re-register for TPS in accordance with federal regulations. All eligible individuals are encouraged to register or re-register as soon as possible.

 
If you are a Syrian national and are currently under TPS, you must re-register during the 60-day re-registration period that runs from June 17, 2013 through August 16, 2013.
 
If you are a Syrian national and have a pending TPS application, you do not need to file a re-registration application during this extension period. The USCIS will continue to process your application.
 
If you are a Syrian national and do not have TPS, you may apply for TPS during the 180-day registration period that runs from June 17, 2013 through December 16, 2013.
 
A Syrian national, or an individual having no nationality who last habitually resided in Syria, may be eligible for TPS under the re-designation if he or she has continuously resided in the United States since June 17, 2013 and has been continuously physically present in the United States since October 1, 2013. In addition to the continuous residence requirement, all applicants must meet the other TPS eligibility and filing requirements.
 
If you have questions about Temporary Protected Status and your eligibility or your registration, do not hesitate to contact Mirque Law for answers. Our office can be reached at 616-233-9300.
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6th Circuit Says Permanent Residency Status is Available to Uninspected TPS Holder

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the district court was wrong in a man’s claims for Lawful Permanent Residency (LPR) status. Mr. Saady Suazo was living in the United States under TPS. He and his wife (an American citizen) eventually sought to obtain LPR status for him. The USCIS denied their request and the district court dismissed their case. On appeal, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Mr. Saady Suazo that Congress’s clear intent was that a TPS beneficiary is afforded a pathway to LPR status.The Court of Appeals based its holding on the plain language of the statute regarding permanent residency and one of the subsections of the TPS statute. In its decision, the Court of Appeals noted,  “We interpret the statute exactly as written – as allowing Mr. Saady Suazo to be considered as being in lawful status as a nonimmigrant for purposes of adjustment of status.” 


If you are currently a TPS beneficiary who was not inspected upon entry of the United States or has been denied permanent residency because you were admitted without inspection, this new case might help you obtain permanent resident status Call my office at 616-233-9300 to discuss the possibility of adjusting your status to a lawful permanent resident from a TPS beneficiary.
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6th Circuit Rules Conspiracy to Traffic False Identification Documents is a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude

In a rather unsurprising amended opinion, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals held that under the categorical approach, the petitioner’s plea to conspiracty to traffic false identification documents qualified as a crime involving “moral turpitude” because the conduct prohibited by the statute he was convicted under inherently involved deceit. Accordingly, the petitioner was thus removable.


The petitioner is a Russian citizen who lawfully entered the U.S. On or about 2/3/99, he was indicted for his alleged participation in a “scheme to assist others to fraudulently obtain Michigan driver’s licenses using other fraudulent documents.” He later pleaded guilty in a New York district court to a single count under 18 USC § 1028(f) for conspiracy to traffic in fraudulent identification documents in violation of 18 USC § 1028(a)(3). This underlying offense prohibits “knowingly possessing with intent to use unlawfully or transfer unlawfully five or more identification documents (other than those issued lawfully for the use of the possessor), authentication features, or false identification documents.” The petitioner was sentenced to five months of imprisonment followed by two years of supervised release. 

On 1/26/05, Department of Homeland Security began removal/deportation proceedings. The petitioner raised the issue as to whether the conviction was one involving moral turpitude. In its decision the court held that the term “crime involving moral turpitude” is not defined in the Immigration and Naturalization Act or by agency regulations. However, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) has held in the past that “[w]here knowing or intentional conduct is an element of an offense, we have found moral turpitude to be present.” “‘Fraud has consistently been regarded as such a contaminating component in any crime that American courts have, without exception, included such crimes within the scope of moral turpitude.'” The 6th Circuit Court concluded that the BIA’s analysis in Matter of Serna supported their conclusion that any intentional unlawful use or transfer of multiple identification documents whose purpose was to identify individuals to government authorities would inherently be intended to deceive the government in some way. The 6th Circuit further noted that a number of  previous cases supported the proposition that moral turpitude is involved when a statute of conviction requires knowing possession of unlawfully possessed or false identification documents, combined with a corrupt intent to use or transfer the documents unlawfully. Thus, the court held that a conviction under 18 USC § 1028(a)(3) inherently involves deceptive conduct, and the petitioner’s conviction constituted a crime involving moral turpitude. 

If you are a lawful permanent resident facing removal/deportation, feel free to contact my office to have a review of your case. My office telephone number is 616-233-9300. My office email address is info@mirquelaw.com.
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ICE Announces Nearly 400,000 People Deported in 2011

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced on October 18, 2011 their year-end removal numbers highlighting trends that underscore the agency’s focus on removing individuals from the country that frall into priority areas for enforcement. These priorites include the identification and removal of those that have broken criminal laws, threats to national security, recent border crossers, repeat violators of immigration law and immigration fugitives.

In 2011, ICE removed 386,906 individuals — the largest number in the agency’s history. Of these, nearly 55 percent or 216,698 of the people removed were convicted of felonies or misdemeanors — an 89 percent increase in the removal of criminals since 2008.

The Secretary of Homeland Security has directed ICE to to focus its resources as effectively as possible on key priorites. This includes the use and frequency of investigations and programs like Secure Communities and Operations Cross Check (SCOCC) that targets immigrants with criminal convictions.

In sum, the United States is working very hard to have aliens removed from this country who have criminal convictions more so than ever. This includes convictions of crimes that were previously not considered worthy of removing a person such as a drunk driving misdemeanor.

If you are a permanent resident who has been charged with a crime it is important than ever that you realize that a conviction could jeopardize your ability to stay in the United States. It is extremely important that the attorney handling your criminal case be familiar with the consequences a conviction might have on your immigration status. Or, at the very least, that your lawyer consult with an immigration lawyer.

Please call my office for a consultation on the consequences of a conviction to your immigration status before it’s too late. My office’s telephone number is 616-233-9300.

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DHS Announces 18-Month Extension of Temporary Protected Status for Sudan and Designation for South Sudan

The Secretary of Homeland Security extended the Temporary Protection Status (TPS) designation for Sudan for 18 months. The department also designated the Republic of South Sudan for TPS for 18 months.Both the extension and the new designation are effective November 3, 2011 and will continue through May 2, 2013.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has strongly encouraged nationals from these countries (and persons with no nationality who last habitually resided in either country) to review the rules regarding the extension or new designation and follow the instructions on how to file an initial or re-registration application for TPS.

Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security is automatically extending the validity of employment authorization documents issued under the last extension of Sudan TPS for an additional 6 months, through May 2, 2012.

All affected persons seeking to obtain or maintain their TPS must file their application package no later than April 10, 2012.

If you think this may apply to you or someone you know, please do not hesitate to call my office at 616-233-9300 to discuss this very important deadline.

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URGENT DEADLINE APPROACHING FOR NON-MINISTER IMMIGRANT VISAS


Congress has temporarily extended the nonminister immigrant visa category, but only until October 31, 2009. Therefore, nonminister religious workers can presently file, or have adjudicated, their I-485 applications for permanent resident, but only for the next two weeks. Congress will consider a further extension, but when, or if that happens is uncertain.


1. Consider filing for adjustment by October 30, 2009, if you did not already

do so:

Because of the impending cutoff date, this means that the I-485
application for non-ministers must be filed and received at the relevant CIS Service Center, no later than Friday, October 30, 2009.

If you are a nonminister,
or represent a nonminister, who remains otherwise eligible to adjust status under INA 245, but did not file in September when no visas were available due to the sunset of the category, you should consider submitting the adjustment of status application now. Note that pursuant to Ruiz-Diaz, an I-360 and I-485 can be filed concurrently. You must still meet the other eligibility requirements relating to qualifications: that is, an available job at a qualifying religious organization, and without having in excess of 180 days of unlawful presence/employment.


Filing the application for adjustment of status should cut off any unlawful
presence /unauthorized employment that is accruing or will begin to accrue against the applicant after expiration of R-1 status. If you do not accomplish this for a nonminister whose R-1 runs out while a further extension by Congress is in limbo, your client could run past the 180 day grace period of INA 245k and be ineligible to adjust.



2. Seek expedites of pending non-minister I-485 applications:

Likewise, if your nonminister religious worker I-485 is pending adjudication, you should promptly request an expedited decision so the approval issues on or before October 30, 2009. My office is presently trying to confirm the best procedure to obtain such an expedite and will post this as soon as possible. If the application is not approved by October 30, adjudication cannot occur until Congress again extends the program.

The Law Office of Robert F. Mirque, Jr. has been representing clients with immigration matters for over 18 years. Mr. Mirque is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and is prepared to take on your immigration issues. If you or someome you know has questions about non-minister immigrant visas or any other immigration issue, please call us at 616-233-9300 to schedule an appointment.

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I Overstayed My Visa, Can I Apply For A Green Card If I’m Married to a US Citizen?

A foreign national who is married to a United States citizen can apply for a “green card” in the United States provided their last entry into the United States they presented themselves for inspection at a United States port of entry and were legally inspected and then admitted or paroled into the United States.

This provision of the law forgives the fact that the foreign national has not maintained their legal status in the Unted States and forgives any unauthorized employment by the foreign national.

This means that even though you fell out of status, you are eligible to apply for a “green card” because you were legally admitted as an nonimmigrant and you are filing for the green card based on the fact that you are married to a U.S. citizen.

However, this provision of the law does not forgive other grounds of inadmissibility, such as criminal convictions, misrepresentation, or being subject to the unlawful presence bar. So the foreign national must otherwise be eligible for admission as a permanent resident.

If you have questions about applying for your “green card”, please give me a call at 616-233-9300 to schedule an appointment.

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Holiday Travel Tips Across the US – Canadian Border

The Law Office of Robert F. Mirque and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reminds travelers planning trips across the border into the United States to have their approved travel documents and to anticipate heavy traffic during the celebration of the holidays.


The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, implemented on June 1, requires U.S. and Canadian citizens, age 16 and older to present a valid, acceptable approved travel document that denotes both identity and citizenship when entering the U.S. by land or sea. WHTI-compliant documents include a passport, U.S. passport card, enhanced driver’s licenses (EDLs) — now produced by the states of New York, Michigan, Vermont and Washington; also the Provinces of Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, and British Columbia — or a Trusted Traveler Program card (NEXUS, SENTRI and FAST). For more information, visit thw WHTI Web site. 


We also want to remind U.S. lawful permanent residents that the I-551 form (green card) is acceptable for land and sea travel into the U.S.


Border traffic volumes are expected to be greatly increased during this holiday weekend and all travelers are reminded of a few simple steps they can employ to cross the border.


Tip #1 – Travelers should familiarize themselves with the “Know Before You Go” section of the CBP Web site to avoid fines and penalties associated with the importation of prohibited items. “Know Before You Go” brochures are also available at border ports. 


Tip #2 – Travelers should prepare for the inspection process before arriving at the inspection booth. Individuals should have their crossing documents available for the inspection and they should be prepared to declare all items acquired abroad. In addition, individuals should end cellular phone conversations before arriving at the inspection booth.


Tip #3 – Members of the traveling public should consult the CBP Web site to monitor border wait times for various ports of entry including Blaine and Sumas, Wash., Sweetgrass, Mont., and Pembina, N.D. Information is updated hourly and is useful in planning trips and identifying periods of light use/short waits.


Tip #4 – During periods of heavy travel, border crossers may wish to consider alternative, less heavily traveled entry routes.


Tip #5 – Travelers should plan to build extra time into their trips in the event they cross during periods of exceptionally heavy traffic (i.e. Thanksgiving holiday and adjacent weekends).


Tip #6 – Know the difference between goods for personal use vs. commercial use.


Tip #7 –Do not attempt to bring fruits, meats, dairy/poultry products and firewood into the United States from Canada without first checking whether they are permitted.


Tip # 8 – Understand that CBP officers have the authority to conduct enforcement examinations without a warrant, ranging from a single luggage examination up to and possibly including a personal search. Even during the holiday travel season, international border crossers should continue to expect a thorough inspection process when they enter the U.S. from Canada.


You should be aware that CBP will continually monitor traffic and border crossing times at area ports of entry. The agency stated that it plans to fully staff all inspection lanes during peak periods and  implement various traffic management operations to maintain the flow of traffic during periods of exceptionally heavy usage.

The Law Office of Robert F. Mirque, Jr. wishes everyone a safe holiday season and if you have an immigration issue, please give us a call at 616-233-9300.

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