DHS Expands Immigration Regulations For Specialty Occupations

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has announced that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has expanded the scope of specific regulations regarding H-1B1, E-3, CW-1 nonimmigrants and specified EB-1 immigrants.  The amendments were made in order to equalize the workers in these classifications with other similarly situated workers falling under different visa classifications.

H-1B1 Nonimmigrant status for specialty occupations from the countries or Chile or Singapore
E-3 Nonimmigrant status for specialty occupations from Australia
EB-1 Immigrant status for employment-base first preference outstanding professors and researchers
CW-1 Nonimmigrant status only for workers falling under the classification of transitional workers from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands


Specifically, the amendments have streamlined the employment process for H-1B1, principal E-3, and CW-1 classifications by eliminating the requirement of a separate employment authorization if the classified person has a sponsoring employer.  Additionally, if a nonimmigrant’s authorization has expired and their employer has filed an extension of stay request within the guidelines, DHS may authorize their employment with the same employer for up to 240 days while the extension is pending.  This same continued authorization applies to CW-1 nonimmigrant classified individuals if their employers properly filed the 1-129CE form.

Furthermore, the existing regulations regarding filing procedures for extensions of stays and change of status requests now extend to H-1B1 nonimmigrant and principal E-3 classifications.  For EB-1 outstanding professors and researchers, DHS has relaxed the forms of evidence required by employers to be more comparable to the accepted evidence for other employment-based immigrant categories as set out in 8 CFR 204.5(i)(3)(i).  The amendments will remove obstacles for individuals falling under these four classifications and place them in line with other employment-based classifications.

To see if you or your family qualifies under this new expansion or to schedule a consultation, please call (315) 410-0119 or e-mail info@01VisaAttorney.com.

Supreme Court of the United States to Have Final Say on Obama’s Immigration Actions

Recently, the Supreme Court of the United States has announced that it will review a challenge to President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. Since President Obama announced his Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program in November, 2014, he was met with resistance by 26 states. DAPA would spare as many as 5 million illegal immigrants who are the parents of citizens or lawful permanent residents from deportation and would provide them with temporary work permits.

The president’s executive action to implement DAPA spurred from years of frustration with Congress when neither branch of government compromised to  enact comprehensive immigration reform. Texas and 25 other states formed a coalition and filed an injunction against the program claiming that the President overstepped his authority by using executive action to circumvent the Congressional process.  Late last year, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans had ruled that the president had overstepped his authority when he issued the executive order. The appeals process will bring it before the Supreme Court, which will likely hear the case in April, 2016, and have final say on the constitutionality of his actions before it adjourns in June.

Though the states recognized the president’s power over immigration matters in their written argument before the court, they call into question the blanket grant of “lawful presence” to millions of immigrants, which would entitle them to various benefits.   The argument is made that this would put an unreasonable burden on those states’ resources in the states with the greatest percentages of illegal immigrants who would be granted work permits through DAPA.

Should the Supreme Court uphold President Obama’s actions, his administration intends to set up the DAPA program quickly and begin enrolling immigrants before his successor takes over early next year.

If you have any questions about how these changes might affect you or a family member, speak to a knowledgeable and concerned immigration attorney.  The Law Office of Caterina Ranieri Grasso works with clients across the United States and around the world.  If you would like to schedule a consultation, please call (315) 410-0119 or email info@o1visaattorney.com.

Teaching in the United States on a J-1 Visa

Teachers who come to the United States from abroad can offer students new cultural perspectives and learning experiences. Teachers also have an opportunity to enrich themselves with the American educational experience. The J-1 Visa is designed specifically for such purposes.

On the J-1 visa, a teacher is permitted to teach in an American primary or secondary school for a period about five years, depending on the program. There are certain qualifications that must be met for the J-1 Visa Teaching Program. You must:

• Be qualified to teach in your home country.
• Have at least three years teaching experience.
• Be of good reputation and character.
• Be able to satisfy the standards of the state in which you will be teaching.
• Be able to speak English proficiently enough to participate in your program.
• Have a sponsoring institution which will screen, select, and monitor your stay to ensure you are performing your responsibilities, and include you in community activities.

In order to obtain the J-1 visa, you should first contact the sponsoring institution and initiate an agreement as well as any paperwork required. You will then need to fill out a DS-2019 Form, the basic document for the J-1 Visa, which the sponsoring institution will provide. Your sponsor may pay the 1-901 SEVIS (Student Exchange and Visitor Information System) fee on your behalf, or you may be required to do so. It is best to discuss these details with your sponsor.

There are also options for visas if you will have a spouse or child joining you while you teach in the United States. They may be able to apply for the J-2 visa, depending on your program.

It is important to remember that a visa application may take several weeks or months, so it is best to begin the process as soon as possible to ensure you will have the visa in time to begin your program. Contact an immigration attorney who has experience in helping people obtain their J-1 visas to work and study in the United States. The Law Office of Caterina Ranieri Grasso works with clients in New York, out of state and overseas. If you would like to schedule a consultation, please call (315) 410-0119 or email info@o1visaattorney.com.

What is Special Immigrant Juvenile Status?

In certain situations, children who have immigrated to the United States may be able to receive legal protection under Special Immigration Juvenile Status (SIJS). The status is an immigration classification to offer legal residency to children who have suffered abuse, neglect or abandonment by their parents. A person under this status may receive a green card as well as a waiver of certain immigration violations, such as unlawful entry.

In order to qualify for SIJS, a juvenile court order must first be issued concerning the neglect, abuse or abandonment the child has suffered. Although the order will not automatically provide a child with SIJS, it is necessary that they obtain a “special findings order” as part of the proceeding, which will allow them to move forward in the SIJS process. Subsequent to such an order being issued, the child can apply for SIJS through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. In addition to a juvenile court order, other qualifying factors include:

• The applicant is under 21
• The applicant is Unmarried
• The child cannot be reunited with his or her parents
• The child cannot return to his or her home country

It may also be necessary to close deportation proceedings if they have been commenced, once SIJS is obtained.

Certain limitations exist concerning those who have obtained SIJS. For example, they are precluded from petitioning for a green card for their parents. Additionally, they will not be able to petition for a green card for their siblings until they obtain U.S. citizenship.

For more information concerning SIJS, click here.

Filing for SIJS can often be a confusing process. Consult with an experienced immigration attorney who will be able to help you navigate. The Law Office of Caterina Ranieri Grasso works with clients in New York State and throughout the United States to assist individuals who qualify for SIJS. If you would like to schedule a consultation, please call (315) 410-0119 or email info@o1visaattorney.com.

Does my Pet Require a Visa?

Most people with pets view them as part of the family.  If you have a long term visa, or are planning on permanently relocating to the United States, you may wish to bring your pet with you.  While a pet does not require a visa, they are still subject to certain procedures and regulations to enter the country.  Depending on the type of companion you have, and the country from which you are coming, there are different pet entry requirements and regulations set forth by the Center for Disease Control.

If you are bringing your dog from a rabies-free country, it is not necessary that your dog have a rabies vaccination as long as they have lived in that country for a minimum of six months or since birth.  If you are entering from a country in which rabies is present, it is necessary to have a certificate of vaccination.  If the dog has not been vaccinated, they may be subjected to a period of confinement. Additionally, if you are importing your dog from a country in which screw worm is known to be present, it is required to have documentation that your dog was inspected for and is free of screw worm five days prior to shipment to the U.S.

If your dog arrives in poor health, it will be subject to a veterinary examination to ensure that the pet does not have a communicable disease.

Since cats are not subject to rabies, they do not have the same vaccination requirements as dogs.  However, as with dogs, cats that appear to be in ill health will be subjected to a veterinary examination to ensure they cannot pass a disease to humans.

Restricted Animals:
Rodents and monkeys are prohibited from importation to the United States.  Birds and turtles may be imported, but are subject to restrictions or prohibitions based upon the species.

In addition to making sure your animal complies with entry requirements, it is also a good idea to check with your airline to make sure you meet the travel requirements.  Click here for more information regarding bringing your pet companion with you to the U.S.

If you are planning to relocate to the United States either permanently, or on a visa, contact an experienced immigration attorney who can ensure that the process runs smoothly for you.  The Law Office of Caterina Ranieri Grasso works with clients in New York State and throughout the United States to assist individuals in obtaining visas and citizenship.  If you would like to schedule a consultation, please call (315) 410-0119 or email info@o1visaattorney.com.

Living in the United States Under Temporary Protective Status

The United States allows individuals temporary immigration status who cannot return to their country of national origin safely due to extraordinary conditions such as war or environmental disaster.  The Department of Homeland Security designates certain countries for protective status depending upon the conditions that qualify.

Those who reside in the United States under Temporary Protective Status (TPS) cannot be removed, may obtain employment, and may be authorized to travel.  In order for an individual to qualify for residency privileges under TPS, they must:

  • Meet the physical presence and residence requirements of that nation’s TPS designation
  • Not have been convicted of security related issues, a felony, or two misdemeanors
  • Apply within the time frame designated by the nation’s TPS order

Each nation assigned TPS has its own designated guidelines that must be followed for individuals to qualify for residency.  The nations currently assigned TPS include El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

To file as a beneficiary under TPS, it is necessary to file the application (Form I-821), and Form I-765 for employment authorization.  The I-765 must be filed even if you do not have plans to work.  The fees vary according to age of the applicant, but generally there is a $50 fee for all applicants, and an $85 biometrics fee (for processing of finger prints, photograph, etc) for those aged 14 and over.  Fee waivers are available to those who cannot afford these fees.  You may also need to apply for a Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility if there are conditions for which you would be otherwise ineligible for TPS.  Waivers are generally granted is there is an overriding interest such as keeping the family together, or for humanitarian purposes.

In addition, evidence must be submitted regarding national identity, date of entry into the United States, and residency in the United States.  Evidence can include passport, a birth certificate, or any documents issued by the embassy of the country of national origin.  If such evidence is unobtainable, an affidavit stating the reasons why the documents are not available must be submitted to USCIS.

It is important that an applicant be aware of the deadlines to reregister for TPS to avoid any issues that may arise with late filing.

Countries currently offering TPS, and the expiration dates for filing:

  • El Salvador: September 9, 2016
  • Guinea: May 21, 2016
  • Haiti: January 22, 2016
  • Honduras: July 5, 2016
  • Liberia: May 21, 2016
  • Nicaragua: July 5, 2016
  • Sierra Leone: May 21, 2016
  • Somalia: September 17, 2015
  • Sudan: May 2, 2016
  • South Sudan: May 2, 2016
  • Syria: September 30, 2016

Filing for Temporary Protective Status can often be a confusing process.  Consult with an experienced immigration attorney who will be able to help you navigate.  The Law Office of Caterina Ranieri Grasso works with clients in New York State and throughout the United States to assist individuals who qualify for Temporary Protective Status.  If you would like to schedule a consultation, please call (315) 410-0119 or email info@o1visaattorney.com.

Self Petitioning for a Green Card if You Have Extraordinary Ability

If you have come to work in the United States as a performer, scholar, athlete, or scientist and can demonstrate that you have “extraordinary ability,” you may be able to self petition for a green card to have permanent residence.  In order to demonstrate that you have extraordinary ability, you must prove that your work and accomplishments exceed that of the ordinary person in that field, and are national or international in scope.  If you can meet three out of ten standards in a list of criteria listed below, you may have sufficient proof that you have extraordinary ability in your field.  However, it is not necessary to meet three out of these ten standards if you have won an internationally recognized award such as the Nobel Prize or an Oscar.  The criteria are as follows:

  • You have received international/national prizes and awards in your field
  • You belong to a distinguished association that demands outstanding achievements of their members
  • You have had articles published about you and your work in the media
  • You have been invited to judge others’ works
  • You have written and published articles in trade magazines for your field, or in the media
  • You have made original and significant contributions in your field
  • Your work has been exhibited or showcased
  • You have played an important role in certain organizations that have distinguished reputations
  • Your accomplishments command a higher salary than that of others in your field
  • You have had commercial success as a performer

If you cannot meet the criteria, there is a second way you may self petition for a green card without a sponsor.  Under the National Interest Waiver, a person needs to prove exceptional ability by showing:

  • Your work is of substantial intrinsic merit
  • Your work is national in scope
  • Your work serves national interests

If you are petitioning under the National Interest Waiver, you will need to submit a petition letter, recommendation letters, evidence of your work, and other necessary forms such as the I-140 form, and the I-485 if you are already living in the United States.

While it can be challenging to meet the elements necessary to qualify as an individual with extraordinary abilities, it is not impossible with the guidance of an experienced immigration attorney.  The Law Office of Caterina Ranieri Grasso works with clients in New York State and throughout the United States to assist individuals with extraordinary abilities self petition for their green cards.  If you would like to schedule a consultation, please call (315) 410-0119 or email info@o1visaattorney.com.

Acquiring Italian Dual Citizenship

There are many advantages to obtaining dual citizenship, such as having the ease of traveling, working, studying or retiring to not only Italy, but any country within the European Union.  In order to be an Italian citizen, it is not necessary to have been born there.  Italy follows the principle of jus sanguine which means that citizenship is acquired by lineal descent, not place of birth.

Citizenship may be acquired by any lineal descendent that can be traced back after March 17, 1861, when Italy officially became an independent nation.  While there is no limit on the number of generations you can trace back to qualify for citizenship, the further back you have to trace, the more costly and the less likely it may be that you will find eligibility within that line.  Citizenship must be derived from someone who did not renounce their Italian citizenship by naturalization before the birth of the person in the following generation to whom you trace your lineage.  All subsequent generations, whether born in Italy or the US, need to not have renounced their Italian citizenship in order for you to find an ancestral link to trace back to for qualification purposes.

For example, if you are hoping to qualify for jus sanguine through your paternal great-grandfather, you, your father, your grandfather and great-grandfather cannot have ever renounced their citizenship before the birth of your lineal descendent.  In addition, there are additional restrictions placed on the maternal line.  Under Italian law, if you are a woman who was born before January 1, 1948, you may only claim citizenship paternally.

Paperwork required as part of your application associated with your descendent and other ancestors within the traceable line must be produced.  Generally, birth, death, marriage, divorce, and naturalization certificates are a part of the applications process.  These documents will be reviewed carefully for any mistakes, as this paperwork will be registered in Italy and may be rejected if there are discrepancies.  Next, the records need to be “apostilled,” which means they must be authenticated and certified so Italy will accept them as legitimate legal records.  Additionally, certain documents will need to be translated into Italian.  Depending on each person’s case, there are also other documents that may need to be produced as part of the record.

Once your paperwork is gathered, authenticated and translated, you will need to attend an application interview at the Italian consulate that has jurisdiction over your place of residency. At the interview, the consulate will carefully review all your documents and look for any discrepancies that need to be addressed. They may also request additional paperwork, which can be produced at a future date.

Going through the process of obtaining Italian citizenship is very exciting but can be overwhelming and confusing at times.  Contact an immigration attorney who is experienced in these matters and can guide you through the process.  The Law Office of Caterina Ranieri Grasso works with clients in New York State and throughout the United States to assist in preparing American documents required to apply for Italian citizenship. If you would like to schedule a consultation, please call (315) 410-0119 or email info@o1visaattorney.com.

Studying in the United States on the F-1 Visa

Studying abroad can be an enlightening and exciting opportunity with memories made that last a lifetime. Many young people from other countries wish to study in the United States to be able to attend the best colleges and universities in the world and receive the finest education. First, there are steps to take to ensure that a student will be able to remain in the United States legally for the period of time they will be studying. The most common type of visa for student visitors from other countries is the F-1 visa. The length of stay on the visa varies according to the country of origin.

To apply for the F-1 visa, a student must be first accepted by an SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program) approved school. The school will provide an I-20 form, and the student will be required to pay any fees associated. Such fees include the SEVIS I-901 fee, which funds the SEVP. Next, the student will apply for a visa, which can be done using an online application and the DS-160 Form. The student must arrange for an interview with their local U.S. Consulate and bring with them the application, a photo, certificate of eligibility from the school, passport, application fee receipt, and any other paperwork requested by the consulate.

To keep F-1 status, a student must register for and take 12 credits each semester. Students also may be limited to the number of hours they can work per week. To renew a visa, a student does not have to return to their home country as long as they meet those requirements. However, if they depart with an expired visa, or their visa expires while they are abroad, it must be renewed in the country of origin.

Because there are so many variations according to each country’s visa requirements, and the immigration laws are constantly in flux, you should speak with an experienced immigration attorney. When it comes to your status as a student, it is important to act as soon as possible. The Law Office of Caterina Ranieri Grasso works with clients in New York State, throughout the United States, and overseas. If you would like to schedule a consultation, please call (315) 410-0119 or email info@o1visaattorney.com.

Executive Office Announces DACA Extension among Other Immigration Initiatives

In November of 2014, the Executive Office announced a series of executive actions to address U.S. immigration policies. The US government intends on expanding Deferred Action options, focus on the deportation of felons before deporting families, and emphasize the requirement that certain undocumented immigrants can institute a criminal background check and pay taxes in order to temporarily stay in the U.S. without fearing deportation.

Specifically, one of the new initiatives includes the expansion of the population eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA). Previously, the DACA program only allowed certain undocumented immigrants (who entered the country before their 16th birthday and before June 2007) to receive a renewable two-year work permit and exemption from deportation. Soon these protections will be extended to more immigrants of various ages.

Scheduled to be effective 90 days from the November 20, 2014 announcement (starting February 18th, 2015), the new DACA initiative now allows individuals born prior to June 15, 1981, to apply for DACA (removing the upper age restriction) provided they meet all other guidelines. Continue reading Executive Office Announces DACA Extension among Other Immigration Initiatives