US Citizenship and Immigration Service Now Accepts Credit Cards for Naturalization Applications

In reviewing new changes to policies put out by the United States Citizenship and Naturalization Service (USCIS), I came across a story that caught my interest. In the past, many of our clients sought to file an application for naturalization; however, the $680.00 filing fee meant that some had to save the money before submitting the forms. This often led to months delaying the process. One question that constantly came up was – “Can I pay my application fee with a credit card?” Unfortunately, I had to tell the client “no”.

Well, now the answer is “yes”!

As of November 16, 2015, the USCIS stated that if you are applying for U.S. citizenship, you can now use a credit card to pay the Form N-400, Application for Naturalization fee. Most applicants must pay a $680 fee, which includes the $595 naturalization application fee plus a biometrics fee of $85.

To pay with your credit card, you must file a Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transaction. At this time, you can use the Form G-1450 only to pay for the Form N-400 filing fee. Hopefully, the USCIS will start accepting credit cards for fees associated with other forms.

If you are a lawful permanent resident and thinking about becoming a US citizen, please call my office at 616-233-9300 to set up a consultation to talk about the process of naturalization.

Robert Mirque is a Grand Rapids, Michigan lawyer specializing in immigration law. For 23 years, he has been providing creative solutions to the immigration goals of businesses and individuals. I invite you to visit me on Google+ or check out my website at Mirque Law

 

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TPS Extended for Somalia – Grand Rapids Immigration Law Can Help File Extension

The United States Department of Homeland Security has extended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for eligible nationals of Somalia (and eligible individuals without nationality who last habitually resided in Somalia) for an additional 18 months, effective Sept. 18, 2015, through March 17, 2017.

It is important to note that current TPS Somalia beneficiaries seeking to extend their TPS must re-register during the 60-day re-registration period which runs from June 1, 2015, through July 31, 2015. The USCIS is encouraging beneficiaries to re-register as soon as possible.

The 18-month extension also allows TPS re-registrants to apply for a new Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Eligible TPS Somalia beneficiaries who re-register during the 60-day period and request a new EAD will receive one with an expiration date of March, 17, 2017.

If you are Somalia beneficary on TPS, please call the Grand Rapids immigration law firm, Mirque Law PLLC, and speak with attorney Robert F. Mirque, Jr. about extending both your TPS and employment authorization for 18 months. Remember, there is only a 60 day window of opportunity to re-register. Our number is 616-233-9300.

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Supreme Court Decides Immigration Case

Yesterday, the Supreme Court decided Mellouli v. Lynch, a case involving the removal from the United States of Moones Mellouli, a lawful permanent resident from Tunisia, based on a Kansas misdemeanor drug paraphernalia conviction for possession of a sock used to hide four tablets of the prescription drug Adderall. In the end, the Court ruled that Mr. Mellouli could not be removed from the United States on the basis of his Kansas conviction for concealing unnamed pills in his sock.

It may seem beyond belief that the United States would deport an individual who’s been living lawfully in this country since 2004 because of a few pills found in a sock. Yet, the truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. In this case, Mr. Mellouli was found to have 4 Adderall pills in a sock. He was eventually convicted of possession of drug paraphernalia. More importantly, the charging documents and the plea agreement never mentioned the kind of drug that was involved. This proved to be crucial because there was no evidence on the record as to whether the drug in question was a controlled substance under federal law.

Because this was Mr. Mellouli’s second drug conviction, the United States sought to remove him. Under immigration law,  the deportation/removal statutes require a drug conviction under state law must “relate to a controlled substance (as defined) by” federal law. This requirement is important because some states ban substances in addition to those regulated by federal law. (Kansas, for example, regulates at least nine substances not regulated by federal law.) The charging document and plea agreement in Mellouli’s criminal case failed to identify the specific controlled substance related to the paraphernalia that served as the basis for his conviction and thus did not make it clear that the substance was controlled by federal law. Nonetheless, the immigration court and Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), with the approval of the court of appeals, ordered Mellouli deported from the United States.

The court’s opinion went through the maze of immigration statutes and in the end, the court held that the Kansas conviction for possession of drug paraphernalia without mention of the specific controlled substance, cannot serve as a basis for deportation.

While the decision would seem to call out the Immigration authorities and its courts as to their inconsistent, overbroad and careless reasoning in attempting to deport Mr. Mellouli from the United States, the apparent problems cited in this case can be easily overcome in the future. For the government, especially prosecutors, they need only make mention of the type of drug involved in a drug paraphernalia case in order for the immigration courts to determine if the controlled substance in question is on the federal list. For defense attorneys, make certain that if your client is charged with possession of drug paraphernalia that you are absolutely certain what controlled substance is involved in the charge. Some illegal drugs in the state may not be controlled substances on the federal list. In the end, it may make a huge difference to your non-citizen client as to the likelihood of deportation.

If you have a deportation case, call the immigration law firm of Mirque Law, PLLC in Grand Rapids, Michigan at 616-233-9300.

 

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Supreme Court Says That Children Who Turn 21 Must Go to Back of the Visa Line

In a 5-4 decision, the supreme court held that immigrant children who for years waited with their parents to obtain visas must go the back of the line when they turn 21. The justices found that the immigration laws protect only a fraction of children who “age out” of the system.

The case started as a 13 year old Salvadorian boy who was waiting in line with his parents for years. However, when he turned 21, the government informed him that he was now an adult and must go to the back of the line resulting in adding years to his wait.

A group of lawmakers including Sens. McCain (R), Hatch (R), Schummer (D), and Feinstein (D) submitted a brief against the government. In this rare display of bipartisan effort, they felt that the law should not require children who “age out” to go to the back of the line but rather, stay where they’re at.

The government’s position was that if the law was not applied as written, too many young adults would enter the country ahead of others who were waiting in line.

In my humble opinion, I think the Court got it right. If the law states that an “aged out” child must go to the back of the line, then the Court had no choice but to defer to Congress. I suspect that this unlikely consequence was not contemplated by Congress at the time the legislation was passed. It appears from the Senate leadership that they would support an amendment to the law that prevented such a consequence when turning 21 but, such amendments require cooperation from both sides. And, it hardly seems likely that Congress can get together and fix this problem in the near future. Therefore, once again, our government is failing to meet the needs our our young adults.

What do you think?
_____________________________________

Mirque Law PLLC is a value driven immigration law firm helping individuals, families, and employees obtain legal status in the United States. If you have an immigration matter, please give us a call at 616-233-9300 to set up a Immigration Status Strategy Session.

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How Not To Obtain Permanent Residency

Four Kenyan nationals residing in Houston were sentenced last week for marriage fraud, visa fraud, and conspiracy to commit marriage fraud. According to the evidence at trial, these guys conspired to recruit and pay US citizens to enter into fraudulent marriages for the purpose of receiving lawful permanent resident status. Each of the defendants applied for a student visa to enter the United States. Once in the US, they recruited US citizens to marry. Each recruited citizen was paid $5000 for participation in the sham marriage. One guy who had his application for a student visa denied, recruited a female US citizen to fly to Kenya to conduct a sham wedding ceremony.

The scheme was uncovered after two of the recruited women were detained at the US Passport Office in Houston on suspicion of committing passport fraud. Upon questioning, they admitted they were recruited to travel to Africa to marry the recruiters’ family members.

The moral of the story here – there’s a right way and a wrong way to enter the United States. This is an example of the wrong way. A very, very wrong way. The right way begins with good legal counsel.

If you have questions about obtaining legal status in the United States the right way, call my office at 616-233-9300 or fill out the contact form for a legal status strategy meeting.

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The New Look

For my regular readers, you will notice a completely new appearance to my blog. For my new readers, welcome!

I’ve always believe that my role here has been to get information to you. Not dazzle you with pictures of courthouses or the flag or the scales of justice. Come on, everyone has seen those websites. Instead, I have tried and I am committed to simply getting to you what I hope is valuable information about immigration law. I hope you agree with me that my website does just that. So, why the change?  [Read more…]

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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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US Grants Deferral for Widows of US Citizens Married Less Than Two Years

U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano today granted deferred action for two years to widows and widowers of U.S. citizens—as well as their unmarried children under 18 years old—who reside in the United States and who were married for less than two years prior to their spouse’s death.


“Smart immigration policy balances strong enforcement practices with common-sense, practical solutions to complicated issues,” said Secretary Napolitano. “Granting deferred action to the widows and widowers of U.S. citizens who otherwise would have been denied the right to remain in the United States allows these individuals and their children an opportunity to stay in the country that has become their home while their legal status is resolved.”


Secretary Napolitano also directed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to suspend adjudication of visa petitions and adjustment applications filed for widow(er)s where the sole reason for reassessment of immigration status was the death of a U.S. citizen spouse prior to the second anniversary of the marriage.


Additionally, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will defer initiating or continuing removal proceedings, or executing final orders of removal against qualified widow(er)s and their eligible children.


USCIS will also consider favorably requests for humanitarian reinstatement where previously approved petitions for widow(er)s had been revoked because of the law. DHS will soon issue guidance instructing the public on how to apply for this relief.


These directives apply regardless of whether the citizen filed a petition for the alien spouse before death. Deferred action is generally an act of prosecutorial discretion to suspend removal proceedings against a particular individual or group of individuals for a specific timeframe; it cannot resolve an individual’s underlying immigration status. Individuals granted deferred action may apply for work authorization if they can demonstrate economic necessity.


While Secretary Napolitano’s directive provides a short-term arrangement for widow(er)s of deceased U.S. citizens, legislation is required to amend the definition of “immediate relatives” in the Immigration and Nationality Act to permit surviving spouses to remain indefinitely after the U.S. citizen spouse dies, enabling them to seek permanent resident status.

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First Child Naturalized Overseas

Martin Miles Ulsano, age 7, the child of a member of the U.S. Navy, today recited the Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony held here in the Chapel of Hope. In doing so, he became the newest citizen of the United States, and the first child naturalized overseas.

Martin, who was born and raised in Japan, is the son of Eugeline and Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Caesar Ulsano. Caesar, who is originally from the Philippines, became a naturalized citizen in 2004 in Hawaii. 


“The successful first naturalization of a child overseas reflects the exemplary work of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services employees in Korea and the military unit at our Nebraska Service Center,” said Mike Aytes, USCIS Acting Deputy Director. This also reflects the great teamwork between USCIS’ domestic and international operations divisions.


James Zumwalt, the Charge D’Affaires from the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, delivered the keynote speech.  Kenneth Sherman, Director of USCIS’ field office in Seoul, Korea, presided over the ceremony and administered the Oath of Allegiance to Ulsano and the 62 active duty service members and nine military spouses stationed in the Pacific, who also became new citizens. 


The new citizens come from diverse backgrounds, hailing from China, Columbia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, England, France, Ghana, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Korea, Mexico, Morocco, Philippines, Romania, and Vietnam. 


The National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2008 permits children of U.S service members to receive their citizenship overseas where their parent is stationed even though the child may never have been in the United States.  Previous immigration law required these children to be physically present within the United States to naturalize. 

If you have a question about naturalization or any aspect of immigration, call me at 616-233-9300 to schedule an appointment.

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SENATE PASSES BILL PROVIDING HEALTH COVERAGE FOR IMMIGRANT KIDS


The House passed this even before the President was sworn in. The bill now brings in a large number of legal immigrant children in to the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Pro-immigrant groups are applauding the measure. From a press release from the National Conference of La Raza:



Legal immigrant children in the U.S. are today one step closer to accessing critical health care services. The Senate approved the “Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act,” (SCHIP) a bill that will provide more health insurance opportunities for approximately four million children in the U.S. and includes legal immigrant children and pregnant women in the scope of its coverage. The National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the largest Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the U.S., fought to end a five-year waiting period for legal immigrant children and pregnant women that has shut hundreds of thousands out of Medicaid and SCHIP for a decade. The bill was passed by a vote of 66-32. The bill’s passage affirms President Barack Obama’s recent actions and statements supporting healthcare for every child in the U.S.

“Including legal immigrant children in the reauthorization of SCHIP affirms American values. America is not a country that chooses which children get health coverage and which do not,” said Janet Murguía, NCLR President and CEO. “Latino children continue to be the most uninsured ethnic group in the country. Yesterday’s vote provides a strong signal that the new Congress is committed to addressing the issues that affect the Latino community.”

Murguía also lauded the leadership of several Senators who helped advance the legislation in spite of receiving public criticism for their support of the bill. “We are glad that Congress chose not to play games with the health care of America’s children. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–NV) and Assistant Majority Leader Richard Durbin (D-IL), and Senators Jay Rockefeller (D–WV), Olympia Snowe (R–ME), and Robert Menendez (D–NJ) should be especially commended for their sustained efforts in the fight to achieve healthcare for our littlest ones,” noted Murguía.

If you have any questions about an immigraton matter, the Law Office of Robert F. Mirque, Jr. has 18 years of experience you can trust. Please call my office at 616-233-9300 or email me at rfmirque@mirquelaw.com 

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