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January 25th, 2011



Filing Mistakes: Filing the K-1 petition at the Wrong Location

January 10th, 2011

The USCIS website gets better and better. The instructions for filing different applications are becoming much clearer and more organized, a huge improvement over their processes 14 years ago when I first started practicing.

The instructions on the I-129f petition indicate where the application should be filed. In the past, the petitioner would need to look up the service center that has jurisdiction over his state of residence, and mail it there.

Unfortunately, it can happen where an applicant carefully prepares a petition but mails it to the wrong location. In that case, what result? Will the petition be rejected? Will it be lost in a paperwork limbo? Will it be accepted and eventually routed to the corrrect office?

The USCIS Adjudicator’s Field Manual provides for this scenario:

“Although the instructions for each type of application or petition specify where that application or petition is to be submitted, submission to an incorrect office (or incorrect post office box where more than one box is used by a service center to sort cases by application type) is not a reason for rejection. Such cases should be receipted and routed to the appropriate office for processing.”

Hooray for the USCIS and being accommodating enough to allow for this oversight.

If you need assistance with a fiance(e) or spouse visa, contact our law office at 626-771-1078 or visit  

State Dept. issues Redesigned Report of Birth Abroad

January 4th, 2011

The DoS recently announced the introduction of a redesigned Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA). The CRBA is an official record confirming that a child born overseas to a US citizen parent acquired US citizenship at birth. The redesigned document has state-of-the-art security features that make it resistent to alterations or forgery.

CRBAs have been printed at US embassies and consulates around the world since 1919. Effective 1/3/11, CRBAs will be printed at passport facilities in Portsmouth, NH and New Orleans, LA.  The DoS believes that centralizing production ensures improved uniform quality and lessens the threat of fraud.

Applications for US passports and the redesigned CRBA will also use the title of “parent” as opposed to “mother” and “father”.

For assistance in obtaining a CRBA for your overseas born child or to bring over your foreign spouse or fiance(e), contact a lawyer at or call us at 626-771-1078.

USCIS Online Tracking System Lacking

January 1st, 2011

The USCIS online tracking system is a good start. However, it fails to provide sufficient information about petitioners’ applications. Users receive a receipt number upon filing their petitions with the USCIS. They can then go online, type in the receipt number, and obtain a status update.

Unfortunately, the information provided is sparse and not very detailed. The case updates primarily state that the petition has been received, that additional information was requested, or that a decision was made and the applicant will be informed.

The system is inadequate in that it fails to provide information about cases that were transferred between offices. The system doesn’t provide information about which office the transferred file was eventually sent to.

The USCIS recognizes that the system needs to be updated to provide more useful and detailed information. In a recent letter to American Immigration Lawyers Association, it indicated that it would be developing a software update that would offer more detailed information. Unfortunately, as of 12/31/2010, no new developments can be reported. Hopefully the update will arrive soon in 2011.

Getting Original Documents Returned

January 1st, 2011

USCIS instructions permit copies to be submitted along with the I-129f. This is generally recommended to avoid submitting an important original document which could get lost or destroyed.

In the event that an applicant does submit an original document, takes certain steps to increase the likelihood of getting your original document back. Submit the original with a copy and a request from the USCIS to return the original. If the applicant doesn’t include a copy, the USCIS may keep the original.

If the USCIS retains the original, use form G-884 to request that the USCIS return the original. File this form with the office where your case was pending. No fee is required to submit this form.

If you need assistance filing a fiance(e) or spousal visa petition, contact our law office at 626-771-1078 or visit us at

Applying to Remove Conditional Status

November 29th, 2010

For many foreign fiance(e)s, permanent residence status is conditional if it is based on a marriage that was less than 2 years old on the day you were given permanent residence. You are given conditional resident status on the day you are lawfully admitted to the United States on an immigrant visa or adjustment of your status to permanent residence.

The foreign fiance(e)’s status is conditional, because you must prove that you did not get married to evade the immigration laws of the United States. To remove these conditions you must file a petition to remove the conditional status placed on your permanent resident status.

Eligibility Criteria

Generally, you may apply to remove your conditions on permanent residence if:

  • You are still married to the same U.S. citizen or permanent resident after 2 years (your children may be included in your application if they received their conditional resident status at the same time that you did or within 90 days)
  • You are a child and cannot be included in the application of your parents for a valid reason
  • You are a widow or widower of a marriage that was entered into in good faith
  • You entered into a marriage in good faith, but the marriage was ended through divorce or annulment
  • You entered into a marriage in good faith, but either you or your child were battered or subjected to extreme hardship by your U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse
  • The termination of your conditional resident status would cause extreme hardship to you

The removal of conditional status can be a challenging application to submit. If you need assistance filing this type of application, visit us at or speak with an immigration attorney at 626-771-1078.

Obtaining a Fee Waiver for Certain Immigration Benefits

November 29th, 2010

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is funded largely by application and petition fees. Waiving a fee transfers the cost of processing the application and petition for free to others through higher fees. However, the USCIS recognize that some individuals may not be able to pay the filing fee. Hence, the USCIS, in their discretion, will waive fees for certain applicants who effectively demonstrate their inability to pay the filing fees.

The review of any fee waiver request will follow a series of steps to determine whether the applicant’s income level or financial condition makes him or her eligible for the fee waiver.

Step 1. Are you receiving a means-tested benefit?  This step instructs an applicant about various acceptable means-tested benefits and the kinds of acceptable evidence used to document the receipt of a means-tested benefits. This step also outlines which family members will be considered as eligible for a fee waiver based upon the primary applicant’s receipt of a means-tested benefit. If you are receiving a means-tested benefit and you have provided sufficient evidence with your fee waiver request, your fee waiver will normally be approved and no further information is required.

Step 2. Is your household income at or below 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines at the time of filing? This step instructs an applicant about what is acceptable evidence in determining household income. It also specifies what family members should be included when determining household size. If you have provided sufficient evidence that your household income is at or below the 150 % threshold, your fee waiver will normally be approved.

Step 3. Do you have some financial hardship situation that you would want USCIS to consider when determining eligibility for a fee waiver? This step allows an applicant to list any special circumstances that USCIS should consider in addition to income such as extraordinary expenses and liabilities.

The fee waiver is only available for specific petitions. It is not available for the I-129f fiancee visa petition. However, it is available for subsequent applications that fiance(e) visa holders may submit once they are in the U.S. This includes the I-485 application to adjust their status from K-1 fiancee visa to that of a lawful permanent resident, the I-765 application for employment authorization, and the I-131 application for advance parole.

Should you need assistance with any of the above applications for your fiance(e) or foreign spouse, please visit our law firm’s website at or speak with an attorney at 626-771-1078.

I-129f Filing Fees Changed Nov 23, 2010

November 29th, 2010

Please note that the USCIS filing fees for many petitions changed on November 23, 2010. For most petitions, the filing fees increased. Not unusual nor unexpected.

Fortunately, the filing fees for the I-129f, the petition used for the fiance(e) visa petition actually decreased by $115! The new fee is now $340 whereas the old fee was $455. Therefore, be sure to submit your petition with the proper filing fee. Personal checks and money orders are accepted made payable to the “Department of Homeland Security”. See the I-129f form instructions for further details.

Failure to do so will result in the petition being kicked back, rejected for the improper filing fee. This will happen a few weeks later thus delaying the reunion of you and your fiance(e).

 If you need assistance with your fiance(e) visa petition, please visit our website at or call us at 626-771-1078 to speak with an immigration attorney.

Immigration Options for Victims of Domestic Abuse

November 8th, 2010

Depending on the circumstances, there are several ways that immigrants who become victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and some other specific crimes may apply for legal immigration status for themselves and their child(ren). A victim’s application is confidential and no one, including an abuser, crime perpetrator, or family member, will be told that you applied.

    • Self-Petitions under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) (Form I-360):
      • For spouses and children of abusive U.S. citizen or lawful permanent residents who have subjected them to battery or extreme cruelty.
      • Also available to parents of abusive U.S. citizen children (if children are over 21).
      • Allows the victim to apply for legal permanent residency without the help or knowledge of the abuser.
    • Battered Spouse Waivers under VAWA (Form I-751):
      • For a conditional permanent resident who has been subjected to battery or extreme cruelty by a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse.
      • Allows the victim to remove the conditions on permanent residence without the help or knowledge of the abusive U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse.
  • Cancellation of Removal under VAWA (requested in immigration court):
    • For spouses and children of abusive U.S. citizens who have subjected them to battery or extreme cruelty and who are in removal proceedings before an immigration judge.
    • Also available to the parent of a child or step-child who is abused by a U.S. citizen.
    • Among other requirements, victim must have been in the United States for longer than 3 years, and show that removal will cause the victim extreme hardship.
    • Allows the victim to request that the immigration judge cancel the removal proceedings and grant the victim lawful permanent residency.
  • U-nonimmigrant status (crime victims) (Form I-918)
    • For victims of certain serious crimes, including domestic violence, who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse as a result of criminal activity in the United States.
       Requires victims to cooperate in the criminal investigation or prosecution.
    • Allows victims to receive a “U visa,” and, after 3 years, if they can prove humanitarian need, public interest, or family unity reasons, to apply for lawful permanent residency.
  • T-nonimmigrant status (victims of human trafficking) (Form I-914)
    • For victims who have been subjected to severe forms of sex or labor trafficking.
    • Requires victims to cooperate in the criminal investigation or prosecution.
    • Allows victims to receive a “T visa,” and, after 3 years, to apply for lawful permanent residency.

These immigration options each have further specific requirements that must be established. For more information and a flyer specifically on “Immigration Options for Victims of Crimes,” please visit the “Humanitarian” section of the USCIS website

Consult an immigration lawyer who works with victims of domestic violence to discuss how any of these immigration options may affect or assist you.

The Legal Rights of Victims of Domestic Violence

November 8th, 2010

All people in the United States, regardless of immigration or citizenship status, are guaranteed basic protections under both civil and criminal law. U.S. laws that apply to families give you:

  • The right to obtain a protection order for you and your child(ren).

  • The right to legal separation or divorce without the consent of your spouse.

  • The right to share certain marital property. In cases of divorce, the court will divide any property or financial assets you and your spouse have together.

  • The right to ask for custody of your child(ren) and financial support. Parents of children under the age of 21 often are required to pay child support for any child not living with them.

Consult a family lawyer and an immigration lawyer who works with immigrant victims of domestic violence to understand how any of these family law options may affect or assist you.
Under U.S. law any crime victim, regardless of immigration or citizenship status, can call the police for help or to obtain a protection order.