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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Keeping Good Records

If you are filing immigration petitions/applications without an attorney, there is one crucial mistake that most people make. That is that they don't keep a copy of the application they send in. This includes a copy of all the supporting documents that you send in.

The USCIS (or any other governing body) is a huge bureaucracy, and often lose or misplace petitions/applications/documents that are sent to them. Sometimes, they will claim that you did not send them a particular document and subsequently delay or deny your application. This delay can be create a great deal of hardship to the petitioner. Trying to get a copy of your application/petition/documents back from USCIS can often be frustrating and sometimes impossible. For example, if USCIS asks for additional information, they will only give you 30 days to respond. The likelihood that you can request and receive a copy of your original application within the 30 days, and allow you time to craft an appropriate response, is slim. While an extension of time is possible, it is not guaranteed.

When USCIS sends the petitioner a request for [additional] documents, the petitioner is often confused about what has been previously submitted, or if the USCIS asks for a document that has already been submitted, the petitioner has to go through to the effort/time/expenses of "re-obtaining" the documents, since no copy was kept. Further, often the USCIS will question a petitioner's answers to a petition/application. Without a copy of the petition/application submitted, most petitioners have forgotten their answers. Further, having a copy of the petition/application will also help an attorney understand your case and provide a record for an appeal, if your petition/application is later denied.

Important things to have a copy of:
1. your application/petition
2. any supporting documents sent in with your application/petition
3. copies of certified mail return receipts (you should always use certified mail or some other traceable method, so that you have proof of WHEN your petition/application was sent in, in case the USCIS questions your petition/application for timeliness).
4. all letters/corespondences between you and USCIS.

James C. Tai

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Transition to U.S. Immigration Law in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

Starting in November 28, 2009, pursuant to the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 , U.S. Department of Homeland Security will assume full control of U.S. immigration matters in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Some Key Effects (for full details, see Department of Homeland Security Page Link)

  • Includes the CNMI in the definition of “United States” under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
  • Provides for the Department of Homeland Security, through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), to immediately resume its role as a protection consultant with regard to asylee and refugee protection, followed by full federal assumption of responsibility for these functions on the transition program effective date. The INA section on asylum, however, continues to be inapplicable to the CNMI during the transition period.
  • Amends the Guam Visa Waiver Program statute to create a Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program and extends the authorized period of stay from 15 days to 45 days, as of the beginning of the transition period.
  • Creates a nonimmigrant transitional worker immigration status during the transition period.
  • Continues lawful presence and employment authorization (if applicable) for aliens lawfully admitted by the CNMI as of the transition program effective date. Such lawful presence and employment authorization will remain valid until the end of the CNMI authorization or at the end of two years – whichever is first.
  • Provides for treaty investor nonimmigrant status for aliens with certain CNMI authorized long-term investor status.
  • Exempts the CNMI and Guam from the statutory caps on the number of H nonimmigrant temporary workers during the transition period.
  • Limits the removal of aliens lawfully present in the CNMI as of the start of the transition period on the basis of presence without admission or parole during the initial two years of the transition period or until that lawful status expires, whichever occurs first.
  • Eliminates the provision in the Covenant specifying that immigration-related fees are paid to the CNMI government, given that the Federal Government is to assume immigration responsibilities in the CNMI.
  • Specifies that prior residence in the CNMI will count as residence in the United States for a permanent resident alien who may otherwise have been considered to have abandoned residence in the United States by residing in the CNMI.
  • Authorizes the Department of Homeland Security to establish operations in the CNMI prior to the beginning of the transition period.
  • Requires the Departments of Homeland Security, Labor, and Justice to recruit and hire personnel from among qualified local applicants, to the maximum extent practicable.

Important Things to Know if You are Detained

1. If you are arrested by the police, do not volunteer information about your immigration status to them. (However, if you are represented by a criminal defense attorney, make sure that you disclose your status to the attorney, so they can advise you of the immigration consequences of any plea deals that you take).

2. If you are arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), you have the right not to sign any statements or documents. DO NOT volunteer any information about your status, as anything you say can be used against you at a later time. DO NOT lie to the immigration officer, as lying about your status can result in serious punishments. SAY YOU WANT TO SPEAK TO A LAWYER.

3. Once you have been processed, make sure you write down the name and phone number of the immigration officer assigned to you. You should also be given a "Notice to Appear" (NTA), which will contain the charges against you. Make sure you have your alien registration number (A11 111 1111). If you do not know your number, try to contact a family member.

4. You have the right to make a phone call. Call either your family or an attorney.

5. Always keep your legal documents with you at all times. Make sure that your documents are not processed as "personal property". Make sure that your family also has a copy of your legal documents.

6. If your family does not know where you are detained, they can call ICE headquarters at 202-305-2734, or go online at They will need your full name and your alien registration number.

7. Your family may be able to visit you while you are detained. DO NOT HAVE UNDOCUMENTED FAMILY MEMBERS VISIT YOU.

8. You should always request a Bond Hearing. Payment of the bond will allow you get out of detention pending your case. A bond is moneys paid to the government to guarantee that you return for the hearings. Some people maybe released without a bond, such as women who are pregnant. Some people are not eligible for a bond, example, if you have a previous deportation order, if you have certain criminal convictions, if you were arrested at the border or airport, or if the government suspects you of having terrorist ties. You can request that the immigration judge lower your bond, if you can not afford the amount set. The judge has the power to lower the bond to $1500.

9. At the bond hearing, you want to the convince the judge that you are not a risk to flee if bond is granted. Make sure you bring to the bond hearing any documents that show you have a permenant address, stable employment, relatives with legal status in the US, or any documents showing evidence of strong ties to the communitiy. Testimony from family members and friends is also helpful at bond hearings. Written letters of support can also be used.

10. If you have criminal record, you need to get a copy of your criminal history. This can be obtained in the Clerk's office of the County where you were convicted or arrested. If you previously had a criminal defense attorney, they will also have criminal records.

11. You do not have the right to a free attorney in immigration proceedings. Once you have been detained, the case can move forward very quickly. Therefore, you need to contact an attorney AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

12. The deportation officer should give you a list of free legal service providers. If he/she does not provide you with one, ASK.

13. When hiring attorney, make sure they have experience with deportations. Make sure that the attorney has seen your NTA before he/she makes any promises of what he/she can do for you. Always request a written contract (engagment letter or retainer agreeement) with your attorney. Always keep the engagement letter or retainer agreeement with you. Always keep all correspondences between you and your attorney.

14. There are generally 2 types of hearings after you are detained, "Master Calender", and "Individual Hearing". A master calender is short hearing where you can tell the judge whether you wish to contest the deportation. You can also ask for additional time to find an attorney, if you wish to contest. If you proceed without an attorney, DENY the charges, and make the government prove thier case. If you are applying for a way to stay in the US legally, you will have an individual hearing.

15. If you are contesting the deportation, you can ask the judge at the master calender hearing for voluntary removal. This may avoid later penalties, barring you from re-entering the US.

Detailed information about the above can be found at National Immigration Project. Link

James C. Tai

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

EB-5 Visas

Invest $500,000, score a U.S. visa

To find financing in a frozen economy, some entrepreneurs are turning to a little-known program for foreign investors. Link from


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