(703) 369-4738

5
Oct
2022

The TPS Program and Good News Regarding the USCIS Recission of Matter of Z-R-Z-C- as an Adopted Decision

Written By Meghan M. Phillips, Esq.[1]

On July 1, 2022, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) released a memorandum that provides welcome news for Temporary Protective Status (TPS) holders: USCIS has announced its rescission of the decision of Matter of Z-R-Z-C- as an adopted decision.[2]  What is this decision, and why is its recession such good news for those with TPS? To understand this, first, one must understand the TPS program and what the Matter of Z-R-Z-C- decision meant for TPS holders.

What is TPS, and Who is Eligible?

            TPS, as the name suggests, provides a temporary legal status for noncitizens in the United States from certain designated countries affected by armed conflict, natural disasters, or other extraordinary conditions.[3] As of August 1, 2022, the following countries have current TPS designations: Afghanistan, Burma (Myanmar), Cameroon, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, Venezuela, and Yemen.[4] TPS allows TPS holders to live and work in the United States for the duration of the designation of their country for TPS and to avoid immigration detention and deportation.[5] The duration of a designation of a country is usually between 6 or 18 months but could be extended for many years.[6]  

            To be eligible for TPS, a person must meet 4 requirements and not have any of the 6 factors that disqualify a person for TPS. The 4 requirements are: (1) Nationality – you must be a national of a country designated for TPS or a person without the nationality but habitually resided in the designated country; (2) Filing Date – you must file your TPS application during the open initial registration or re-registration period for your country of nationality, or meet the requirements for late initial filing during any extension of the TPS designation (3) Continuous U.S. Physical presence – you must have been continuously physically present in the United States since the date specified for your country with the exception for brief, casual and innocent departures from the United States; and (4) Continuous U.S. Residence – you have continuously maintained a residence in the U.S. since the date specified for your country, again, with the exception for brief, casual, and innocent departures from the United States.[7]

The 6 factors that can disqualify a person from TPS are: (1) felony convictions or two or more misdemeanor convictions in the United States; (2) inadmissibility under U.S. immigration laws, including for non-waivable and security-related grounds; (3) being subject to any of the mandatory bars to asylum, such as participating in the persecution of another individual or engaging in or inciting terrorist activity; (4) failing to meet the continuous physical presence and continuous residence in the United States requirements; (5) failing to meet initial or late initial TPS registration requirements; and (6) failing to re-register for TPS without good cause.[8]

How did Matter of Z-R-Z-C- Affect TPS Holders?

TPS does not provide its beneficiaries with a path to lawful permanent residence (also sometimes called having a green card) or citizenship because, as the name suggests, the status is only intended to be temporary.[9] However, a TPS holder who later becomes eligible for permanent residency, for example, through the petition of a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident (LPR) relative and who is otherwise eligible for adjustment of status, can apply to become an LPR.[10] A person who entered the United States without inspection is usually not eligible to apply to become an LPR.[11] However, TPS holders who have traveled with prior authorization upon returning to the United States have been inspected and paroled into the United States. Before Matter of Z-R-Z-C- was adopted as a precedential decision by USCIS, TPS holders who had traveled with advanced parole, even if they had originally entered the United States without inspection, were considered by USCIS to have met the requirement to be admitted and inspected.  In other words, TPS holders who had traveled with advanced permission “cured” their original unlawful entry and were eligible to adjust their status if they otherwise met all of the other requirements. 

Matter of Z-R-Z-C-, which was adopted on August 20, 2020, marked USCIS’s departure from this position and held that being “inspected and admitted” after TPS-authorized travel does not constitute being inspected and admitted for purposes of adjustment of status under INA 245(a).[12] This decision essentially declared that TPS beneficiaries are admitted in the “same immigration status the alien had at the time of departure.”[13] As this was such a significant policy change, USCIS decided it would grandfather those TPS holders who had traveled and returned on advanced parole prior to the decision date, August 20, 2020.[14] This meant that “newer” TPS holders, such as those from the recently designated countries of Afghanistan and Ukraine or those who had never before traveled with advance parole, could no longer “cure” their original entry without inspection.

What does the Recission of Matter of Z-R-Z-C- Mean for those with TPS Going Forward?

  On July 1, 2022, USCIS decided to rescind its adoption of Matter of Z-R-Z-C- as a precedent decision.[15] Going forward, this means that TPS holders can continue to apply for advanced travel permission to leave and return to the United States. However, now that Matter of Z-R-Z-C- has been rescinded, they are not going to return to the United States in the same status that they left.  Instead, traveling with advance permission and then re-entering after being inspected and admitted by U.S. immigration officials will satisfy the requirement of being lawfully inspected and admitted needed for an adjustment of status application. This is welcome news for those TPS holders who had not traveled with authorization prior to August 20, 2020, and who originally entered without inspection because it means they are now able to “cure” their original unlawful entries.

However, the recession also may adversely affect those who already have a removal order.[16] USCIS also cautions those TPS holders who have traveled with advanced permission that USCIS might not have jurisdiction over their applications for adjustment of status if that person has been in removal proceedings (has had an immigration court case).[17] For those in this situation, these applicants will have to file their adjustment of status application with the immigration court or terminate their removal proceedings so they can file their applications with USCIS.[18] These legal determinations are highly technical; therefore, please seek legal advice before traveling to avoid any inadmissibility issues or before filing your application for adjustment of status. Licensed legal counsel can help you check your immigration records and research the best legal strategy for your case. 

Conclusion

The TPS program is an important benefit for those in the United States from countries that have experienced terrible armed conflict and natural disasters but proving your eligibility and ensuring that you meet USCS’s precise deadlines is not easy on your own, especially if USCIS requests additional information or denies your application. Having an attorney help you ensure you meet the requirements and all deadlines, as well as help you navigate through the TPS travel authorization application process, can be extremely helpful. Additionally, determining whether you have a prior removal order, are in removal proceedings, or whether traveling could risk you ineligible for legal permanent residency are important legal determinations for which you should seek legal advice. Before seeking legal help, however, please do your research and pick a licensed and experienced immigration lawyer or representative for your case.

At VFN Immigrants First, we have four licensed immigration attorneys who are admitted to practice both by state bars and EOIR. We would be happy to help you find the best legal strategy to meet your immigration goals and help you determine if the recession of Matter of Z-R-Z-C-, will allow you to travel with advance permission and if you are eligible to adjust your status to that of a lawful permanent resident now, or in the future.  

Please give us a call at 703-335-2009, visit our website, www.immigrantsfirst.com, email: mphillips@vfnlaw.com, or stop by our office at 9200 Church Street, Suite 203, in Manassas, Virginia, to learn more or make an appointment for a consultation.


[1] Meghan M. Phillips, Esq., is an associate immigration lawyer with the Immigration Law Practice Group, Immigrants First, at Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian, PC. She primarily handles family and humanitarian immigration, Special Immigrant Juvenile custody, and removal defense and appeal cases. She is a member of the Virginia State Bar and has been admitted to practice before the U.S. immigration courts (EOIR), the Eastern District of Virginia Court, and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

[2] USCIS Policy Memorandum: Rescission of Matter of Z-R-Z-C- as an Adopted Decision; agency interpretation of authorized travel by TPS beneficiaries, PM-602-0188, July 1, 2022, available at: https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/document/memos/PM-602-0188-RescissionofMatterofZ-R-Z-C-.pdf.

[3] See USCIS Website, Temporary Protected Status, available at: https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/temporary-protected-status.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] American Immigration Council, Temporary Protected Status: An Overview, June 29, 2022, available at: https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/temporary-protected-status-overview#:~:text=A%20TPS%20designation%20can%20be,conditions%20in%20the%20foreign%20country.

[7] See USCIS Website, Temporary Protected Status, available at: https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/temporary-protected-status.

[8] Id.

[9] American Immigration Council, Temporary Protected Status: An Overview, June 29, 2022, available at: https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/temporary-protected-status-overview#:~:text=A%20TPS%20designation%20can%20be,conditions%20in%20the%20foreign%20country.

[10] Id.

[11] See INA 245(a). 

[12] USCIS Policy Memorandum: Rescission of Matter of Z-R-Z-C- as an Adopted Decision; agency interpretation of authorized travel by TPS beneficiaries, PM-602-0188, July 1, 2022, available at: https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/document/memos/PM-602-0188-RescissionofMatterofZ-R-Z-C-.pdf.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Id.; see also, Duarte v. Mayorkas, 27 F.4th 1044 (5th Cir. 2022).

[16] USCIS Policy Memorandum: Rescission of Matter of Z-R-Z-C- as an Adopted Decision; agency interpretation of authorized travel by TPS beneficiaries, PM-602-0188, July 1, 2022, available at: https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/document/memos/PM-602-0188-RescissionofMatterofZ-R-Z-C-.pdf.

[17] Id.

[18] Id.


This blog post is not intended to provide legal advice or substitute for the advice of legal counsel with respect to specific facts and situations. See disclaimer

12
Sep
2022

2022 Immigration Updates: A comprehensive CLE on Basic Knowledge on Immigration Law

Written by: Lisa Shea, Esq.

VFN Attorneys Lisa Shea, Meghan Philips, and Morsal Hashimee will be presenting a CLE on 2022 Immigration Updates:  The Latest on Crimimm (immigration consequences of crimes), Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, Other Humanitarian Relief, and What’s in the News

This comprehensive CLE will presume basic knowledge of immigration and will be updating participants on changes in immigration law that affect other areas of the law.  The presentation will also explain what has been happening in immigration news so that participants have conversation starters at dinner!  This four-hour CLE will include ethics credits and lunch.  There will be time for questions during and after the presentation.  We look forward to seeing you there! The event will take place on October 6, 2022, at the City Tavern from 12:00 PM to 4:30 PM.  Lunch will be included.  Please contact Peyton Gwinn at:  deputydirector@pwcba.org  to register.  CLE credit will be available.


This blog post is not intended to provide legal advice or substitute for the advice of legal counsel with respect to specific facts and situations. See disclaimer

9
Aug
2022

DON’T BE FOOLED!: HOW TO BE A WISE CLIENT FOR AN IMMIGRATION CONSULTATION

Written By Lisa Shea, Esq.

These days, there are many immigration lawyers and notarios promising immigrants that they will have an opportunity to get a green card without even thoroughly analyzing the facts of their case.  They will simply say, “Yeah, no problem, I can get you a green card.” 

Although it is wonderful to hear that you could qualify for a green card, if you actually qualify for it, it is not wonderful if someone tells you they can get you a green card just to take your money and for you to later learn that you don’t qualify. 

Immigration law is extremely complex and changes all the time.  In order for a lawyer to assess what kind of case you have, and the relief you could qualify for, a thorough consultation is needed.  Many lawyers will give you a free 10 or 20-minute consultation, but that is not enough time for you to ask questions, give the lawyer enough facts about your case, or receive a thorough analysis of your situation before you spend thousands of dollars and risk your entire immigration case. 

Making a decision about your immigration case is one of the most important decisions you will ever make.  It could dictate whether you are allowed to stay in the United States; whether you will be granted legal status; and whether you spend thousands of dollars for the good of your case or are just wasting your money. 

WATCH FOR FRAUD:

Recently, I spoke with a client that had one of these free consults from a well-known social media attorney.  When the client called the lawyer, he was directed to a foreign-qualified lawyer who did not know American law well.  The person my client spoke with did not ask important questions that would have dramatically changed the legal advice from the client qualifying to do a waiver and consular processing to being permanently barred from immigration relief.  Even without all the needed information, he announced that my client qualified and that the cost would be several thousand dollars.  It was when my client sought a second opinion that he discovered that it was not so straightforward; his case might have some inadmissibility grounds that are more complicated than the lawyer explained to him, such as criminal records, smuggling, and multiple re-entries.

Another gimmick lawyers use is to advertise that they have an office in the city where you live but they really don’t.  They pay for advertising to make it look like they are local, but they are actually in another city or even state.  And, while it is not essential that your lawyer be local if that is what you are looking for, you have the right to know whether you will be able to have in-person contact with your lawyer. In other words, a lawyer should be clear on their website where they are located.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A CONSULTATION TO FIND A QUALITY LAWYER:

If you are looking for quality legal advice, you should expect to pay a reasonable fee for a consultation.  Ask friends and family for a referral and check out the background of the lawyer. For example, you should find out if there are any bar complaints against the lawyer.  During a paid consultation, the lawyer should thoroughly screen your immigration background and that of any family members who could impact your own immigration status.  Take any immigration and criminal documents you have to the consultation.  If you or your family member(s) have an A-number or alien number, make sure you take it with you. Any options for relief should be explained and you should be given an opportunity to ask questions about your future case.  Ask the lawyer if he/she has experience in the kind of case you have and what the costs will be.  Make sure your lawyer provides you with a written engagement agreement explaining the case and the fees.  Your lawyer may need to do a freedom of information act (FOIA) request to get further information about your case before making a final plan of action.

Upon hiring the lawyer, stay in contact with him/her to ensure that you are meeting important deadlines and providing the information needed to do the case.  Working with a lawyer on your immigration case is a team effort.  The lawyer has obligations, and so do you.  Your lawyer needs to use his/her best legal expertise to put together a thorough and timely case based on current law and vigorously advocate for your interests.  You have an obligation to pay your lawyer and provide credible information, evidence, be on time for appointments, and keep the lawyer updated on important developments such as changes of address and phone number.

With a positive outlook and cooperation between you and your lawyer, you should have a successful experience.  Although outcomes are not guaranteed, many cases can be won with diligent efforts. 

If you are interested in knowing your immigration options, please call us at 703-335-2009  to schedule your consultation. We will be happy to help you achieve your American Dream!


FOR MORE INFORMATION ON A SPECIFIC SITUATION, PLEASE CONTACT:

Lisa Shea is a shareholder at Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian, P.C. She is leading the firm’s Immigration practice, as well as Immigration Chair for the Prince William County Bar Association.  If you have additional questions or concerns contact Lisa Shea at or call us at 703-335-2009.

www.immigrantsfirst.com (for information about immigration solutions)
www.vfnlaw.com (for information about solutions in other areas of law)

This blog post is not intended to provide legal advice or substitute for the advice of legal counsel with respect to specific facts and situations. See disclaimer

8
Aug
2022

EXTENSION AND REDESIGNATION OF SYRIA FOR TPS

Written By Lisa Shea, Esq.

DHS has announced it is extending the designation of Syria for temporary protected status for 18 months, effective October 1, 2022 through March 31, 2024.  The redesignation allows Syrians who have been continuously residing in the United States since July 28, 2022 to apply for TPS for the first time.  Check the USCIS website at www.uscis.gov for more information. 

.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON A SPECIFIC SITUATION, PLEASE CONTACT:

Lisa Shea is a shareholder at Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian, P.C. She is leading the firm’s Immigration practice, as well as Immigration Chair for the Prince William County Bar Association.  If you have additional questions or concerns contact Lisa Shea at or call us at 703-335-2009.

www.immigrantsfirst.com (for information about immigration solutions)
www.vfnlaw.com (for information about solutions in other areas of law)

This blog post is not intended to provide legal advice or substitute for the advice of legal counsel with respect to specific facts and situations. See disclaimer

8
Aug
2022

New ID Card For Immigrants at Border?

Written By Lisa Shea, Esq.

The Biden Administration has announced that it is working on a new ID card for immigrants at the border with Mexico.  This card would carry information allowing immigration officials to access information about a person’s case files and would be a travel card as well.  It would have the immigrant’s name, nationality, photo, and QR code and would allow the immigrant to log into a website to access ICE reporting requirements, court hearings, and case updates. 

If the pilot program is successful, it may be expanded to apply to other immigrants.  While there are privacy concerns, it will be more convenient than current technologies, including GPS bracelets and phone check-ins.  Given that there are 1.6 million pending immigration cases and a long wait for court dates, this new technology may keep immigrants in touch with their cases ensuring better due process for the individual and greater efficiency for the system, and less in abstentia deportation orders.

.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON A SPECIFIC SITUATION, PLEASE CONTACT:

Lisa Shea is a shareholder at Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian, P.C. She is leading the firm’s Immigration practice, as well as Immigration Chair for the Prince William County Bar Association.  If you have additional questions or concerns contact Lisa Shea at or call us at 703-335-2009.

www.immigrantsfirst.com (for information about immigration solutions)
www.vfnlaw.com (for information about solutions in other areas of law)

This blog post is not intended to provide legal advice or substitute for the advice of legal counsel with respect to specific facts and situations. See disclaimer

2
Jun
2022

Navigating the Backlog of the American Immigration System

Written By Meghan M. Phillips, Esq.[1]

Introduction: A Case Caught in the Backlog for Ten Years

In March 2022, I litigated case before the immigration court on behalf of an incredibly deserving asylum-seeker who had been waiting ten years to receive a decision on her case. Her hearing would decide whether she would be granted asylum, withholding of removal, or protection under the Convention Against Torture, or if she would be order removed to the country of her citizenship.

Even though recent country condition reports show that our client would likely be harmed, tortured or executed if she returned to her country, asylum is an immigration benefit, which provides access to other governmental benefits and allows asylees to petition for permanent residency after one year. Therefore, a grant of asylum is not guaranteed by an asylum officer or immigration judge: an asylum-seeker must prove they qualify for asylum, and it is also a matter of those factfinders’ discretion.

Although the client and her family knew I believed in the strength of her case and that she truly merited the immigration judge’s positive exercise of discretion, I explained that the burden of proof was ours and we needed to prepare accordingly. So, prepare we did, and it truly was a team effort. Happily, our work, which also included a motion to advance the hearing, paid off, and our client was finally granted asylum.

However, not all cases caught in the U.S. immigration system’s backlogs will end with a positive outcome; in some cases, waiting in the backlog means that the case is prejudiced or that the applicant might no longer qualify for the immigration benefit they seek. For example, country conditions can dramatically improve, causing asylum seekers to lose their case by the time they have their hearing. Evidence could be lost, or a witness crucial to the case could pass away before testifying while waiting in the backlog. Worst of all, certain types of relief require clients or their qualifying relatives to be under a certain age. For instance, for cancellation of removal, if one’s qualifying relative is a U.S. citizen child, the child will no longer be a qualifying relative if he or she reaches the age of twenty-one. Thus, it is important to not only have one’s merits hearing before the qualifying relative ages out, but to also have time for the visa to issue, which currently can take about two to three years.

Even if one does eventually receive a positive outcome, awaiting a decision on an immigration case due to the backlogs can be incredibly stressful and lead to many negative side effects. It can mean families are separated for long periods of time, businesses can be waiting long periods for workers they desperately need, and qualified applicants might not be able to travel, access health care, or other federal benefits such as financial aid for education.

State of the Backlog

Sadly, although the ten-year duration of the above-mentioned asylum case might seem unusually long, the backlogs in the American immigration system mean that long wait-times are not the exception but the norm. The current estimated time for an asylum case is 58 months – in other words, about five years.[2]  For immigrant visa cases, the National Visa Center (NVC) reported that in May 2022, they scheduled 28,447 applicants for visa appointments, but 421,136 eligible visa applicants are still pending the scheduling of their interviews.[3]  As of February 2022, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), was reviewing more than 9.5 million pending applications.[4] Finally, the immigration courts have a massive backlog of 1.6 million cases.[5]

Causes of the American Immigration Backlog

These estimates are also sadly unlikely to improve: a number of factors mean that the backlogs are only going to grow.  One of the main reasons for the backlog is the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused shutdowns of embassies, consulates, and immigration offices. However, fiscal issues and a governmental hiring freeze also contributed to backlogs with USCIS.[6]

Ricard Zuniga, the Biden administration’s special envoy for the Northern Triangle region recently predicted that the U.S. is likely to see an increase in asylum requests and immigration from Central America because three countries’ democracies are facing grave difficulties.[7] In Guatemala, an anti-corruption judge went into exile due threats against her life.[8] El Salvador is experiencing a spike of gang-related homicides, causing the government to make mass arrests.[9] Finally, the former president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernandez, has been extradited to the United States on drug trafficking charges.[10] Additionally, asylum requests from Ukrainians at the Mexican border are growing, due to the ongoing war.[11]

Strategies to Navigate the Backlog

            So, what can be done to help you, your family, or your business navigate these immigration backlogs so as to achieve your immigration goals? My most important tip is to avoid scammers or fraud notarios and find experienced and licensed legal counsel.[12] Although legal fees have a cost, doing your applications yourself or entrusting your case to an unlicensed person can have terrible consequences; not only could it cause your case to take longer, but you might also lose eligibility for immigration benefits entirely.

One reason your case might take longer is because what you file and where you file for your case matters. Knowing all the evidence needed to process your application and the proper filing address and fees can help you ensure that your application is not rejected and that you avoid Requests for Evidence (RFEs), which can make processing of your application take even longer.

Additionally, once you have retained legal counsel to help ensure your immigration application is properly filed, you can also ask him or her if any of these strategies might be right for you:

  1. Prosecutorial Discretion: Lawyers with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), who serve as prosecutors in immigration court have been directed to help clear low-priority immigration cases from the immigration court backlog by exercising their discretion in a variety of forms, including motioning to dismiss or administratively close removal proceedings, joining motions to reopen a deportation order, or not opposing immigration relief.[13]  An experienced immigration attorney can help you determine if you might qualify for this, whether such a request to DHS is in your best interest, and help you file a request for prosecutorial discretion with the required evidence with DHS.

 

  1. Motion to Advance: You might be able to file a motion to advance your court date with the immigration court. For example, in the previously discussed asylum case, our firm filed a motion to advance our client’s immigration court hearing date. This motion was granted and allowed our client to finally have her individual merits hearing on her asylum case.

 

  1. Requesting Premium Processing: For certain employment visa categories, you might be able to file a request for premium processing with an additional fee to request faster processing of your case.[14] However, knowing whether your case qualifies, and making sure you comply with all requirements can be tricky without an attorney who can walk you through each step of the process.

 

  1. Expedite Request: In some cases, you might also be able to request that USCIS or NVC expedite your interview. For example, if you can prove that: delay to your case could cause severe financial loss to a company or person; there is an emergency or urgent humanitarian reason to expedite your case; a nonprofit organization has an urgent need to expedite your case based on your specific role within the nonprofit in furthering cultural or social interests; it is in U.S. government interests to expedite your case; or there is a been clear USCIS error in your case.[15]  

 

  1. Case Outside Normal Processing Times Inquiry: After checking the processing times for your application to verify that your case it outside normal processing times, you may be able to submit an inquiry, asking USCIS to explain the delay or to receive an estimated time frame. An attorney can help you check your case processing time and submit such an inquiry.   

 

  1. Assistance Contacting a Member of Congress or Senator: Sometimes, a lawmaker such as your member of Congress or a senator can help make inquiries on your behalf or encourage the relevant immigration agency to expedite your case. An attorney can help you facilitate such a request.

 

  1. Federal Litigation such as a Writ of Mandamus or suit under the APA: When an immigration case has been pending without a decision for an unreasonable amount of time, and no other course of action has led to a decision or timeline for a decision, a lawsuit against USCIS or other government agencies, might be your best option. This lawsuit, called a writ of mandamus or complaint under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), will order the agency to make a decision on your case. However, this does not mean your case will be approved, only that a decision will be made. The lawsuit must be filed in the correct federal court with jurisdiction over your address or case, and you must show that you have exhausted all other avenues to receive a decision and that the time elapsed without a decision is unreasonable. An experienced immigration attorney can ensure that you file in the correct court and that you have tried all other strategies so as to avoid dismissal of your case. Furthermore, an experienced attorney can advise you on the risks of a negative decision and whether the time elapsed has indeed been unreasonable.

Conclusion

The U.S. immigration system backlog is extensive and navigating the backlog can be extremely difficult alone. Having an attorney help you choose the best strategy for your case can help immensely. However, above all, please do your research and pick a licensed and experienced immigration lawyer or representative for your case.

At VFN Immigrants First, we have four licensed immigration attorneys who are admitted to practice both by state bars and EOIR (the immigration court system) and who take their professional duties extremely seriously. We would be happy to help you find the best legal strategy to meet your immigration goals and help you navigate the immigration system’s enormous backlogs.

Please give us a call at 703-335-2009, visit our website, www.immigrantsfirst.com, or stop by our office at 9200 Church Street, Suite 203, in Manassas, Virginia to learn more or make an appointment for a consultation

 

[1] Meghan M. Phillips, Esq., is an associate immigration lawyer with the Immigration Law Practice Group, Immigrants First, at Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian, PC. She primarily handles family and humanitarian immigration, Special Immigrant Juvenile custody, and removal defense and appeal cases. She is a member of the Virginia State Bar and admitted to practice before the U.S. immigration courts (EOIR), the Eastern District of Virginia Court, and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

[2] Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) Immigration, Syracuse University, A Mounting Asylum Backlog and Growing Wait Times, Dec. 22, 2021, available at: https://trac.syr.edu/immigration/reports/672/.

[3] U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs, National Visa Center (NVC) Immigrant Visa Backlog Report, May 2022, available at: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/visas-backlog.html.

[4] Cmilo Montoy-Galvez, CBS News, U.S. immigration agency moves to cut 9.5 million-case backlog and speed up processing, Mar. 29, 2022, available at: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/immigration-uscis-case-backlog-processing-delays/.

[5] Rick Jervis, USA Today, COVID-19, surge in new cases create historic backlog jam in US immigration courts, report says, Jan. 19, 2022, available at: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2022/01/19/covid-19-creates-huge-backlog-us-immigration-court/6581042001/.

[6] U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), USCIS Backlog Reduction and Processing Times, May 18, 2022, available at: https://www.uscis.gov/outreach/upcoming-national-engagements/uscis-backlog-reduction-and-processing-times.

[7] Cincy Carcamo, Los Angeles Times, Biden official says U.S. will likely see an uptick in asylum requests and immigration, Apr. 2, 2022, available at: https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-04-02/la-me-ricardo-zuniga-on-biden-asylum-reversal-policy-central-america.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Sharif Paget and Karol Suarez, CNN, The number of Ukrainians seeking asylum at the US-Mexico border is growing by the day, Apr. 2, 2022, available at: https://www.cnn.com/2022/04/02/us/ukrainians-us-mexico-border/index.html.

[12] See my previous blog article, The Wrong Immigration Help Can Hurt, for more information about the perils of entrusting your case to an immigration scammer or notario and what you can do to avoid these scams and find licensed, legal help. 

[13] Memorandum from Kerry E. Doyle, Principal Legal Advisor, Guidance to OPLA Attorneys Regarding the Enforcement of Civil Immigration Laws and the Exercise of Prosecutorial Discretion, April 3, 2022 (taking effect April 25, 2022), available at: https://www.ice.gov/doclib/about/offices/opla/OPLA-immigration-enforcement_guidanceApr2022.pdf ; Memorandum from Alejandro N. Mayorkas, Secretary of Homeland Security, Guidelines for the Enforcement of Civil Immigration Law (Sept. 30, 2021), available at: https://www.ice.gov/doclib/news/guidelines-civilimmigrationlaw.pdf.

[14] USCIS, How Do I Request Premium Processing?, May 27, 2022, available at: https://www.uscis.gov/forms/all-forms/how-do-i-request-premium-processing.

[15] USCIS, How to Make an Expedite Request, Mar. 21, 2022, available at: https://www.uscis.gov/forms/filing-guidance/how-to-make-an-expedite-request.

 

This blog post is not intended to provide legal advice or substitute for the advice of legal counsel with respect to specific facts and situations. See disclaimer

11
May
2022

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS)

Written By Lisa Shea, Esq.

Pictured is Marta and her beautiful two-year-old daughter.  Marta is an immigration success story after Lisa Shea, head of the immigration practice group at VFN, helped Marta obtain her green card in 2011 through special immigrant juvenile status adjustment.  Marta was born in El Salvador in 1991 and at the age of three months, she was left by her parents in the care of her grandmother who beat her relentlessly.  In 2008, thinking life would be better, Marta traveled by herself at the age of 16 to live with her alcoholic mother, but things only got worse.  Her mother was not prepared to raise her child and worked her for long hours, abused her, and tried to kill her by holding a loaded gun to her head and hitting her with a car.  Her mother finally abandoned her to distant relatives who kicked Marta out of their house within six months of her arrival, leaving her homeless and pregnant.  She went into foster care and the Manassas Department of Social Services reached out to Ms. Shea to take the case pro bono.  After two years of working on the immigration case, and several years of Marta remaining in foster care, Marta got her green card.  Now Marta has a family of her own and is a dental assistant.  She is happy in her life and is a contributing member of our community; she can see how far she has come from when she first came to the United States.

In order to qualify for special immigrant juvenile status (SIJS) a juvenile in Virginia must meet the following criteria.  First, be found to be dependent upon a juvenile court or in the custody of an agency, or department of the state.  In Virginia, a juvenile should have a custody determination issued by the juvenile court before the age of 18 years old.  Although the statute may allow the filing of the custody petition before 18 years old, with adjudication after 18 years old, some judges are still construing the law that the custody determination must occur before the age of 18 years old.  Second, at the time of custody determination and filing of the SIJS petition with USCIS, the juvenile must be unmarried and under the age of 21 years old.  Third, the juvenile must be present in the United States at the time the relief is granted.  Fourth, the juvenile must be eligible for long-term foster care due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment by one or both parents.  And, Fifth, the juvenile must prove that it is not in their best interest to be returned to their home country.

Marta came into our office recently, after 11 years, to see if we could help other family members legalize their status.  We had a joyous reunion after all this time and the opportunity to see each other again.  One of the many benefits of practicing immigration law is to see clients progress after attaining legal status, and that progress has been especially outstanding for Marta.  We handle many SIJS cases successfully from the custody determination phase to the application for SIJS, and lastly to adjustment of status, including for juveniles who are in removal proceedings.  Please contact us if you need assistance with an SIJS case.  We are more than happy to assist!

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON A SPECIFIC SITUATION, PLEASE CONTACT:

Lisa Shea is a shareholder at Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian, P.C. She is leading the firm’s Immigration practice, as well as Immigration Chair for the Prince William County Bar Association.  If you have additional questions or concerns contact Lisa Shea at or call us at 703-335-2009.

www.immigrantsfirst.com (for information about immigration solutions)
www.vfnlaw.com (for information about solutions in other areas of law)

This blog post is not intended to provide legal advice or substitute for the advice of legal counsel with respect to specific facts and situations. See disclaimer

20
Apr
2022

Cameroon TPS

By Lisa Shea, Esq.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced today the designation of Cameroon for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 18 months. Only individuals who are already residing in the United States as of April 14, 2022, will be eligible for TPS.

“The United States recognizes the ongoing armed conflict in Cameroon, and we will provide temporary protection to those in need,” said Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “Cameroonian nationals currently residing in the U.S. who cannot safely return due to the extreme violence perpetrated by government forces and armed separatists, and a rise in attacks led by Boko Haram, will be able to remain and work in the United States until conditions in their home country improve.”

A country may be designated for TPS when conditions in the country fall into one or more of the three statutory bases for designation: ongoing armed conflict, environmental disaster, or extraordinary and temporary conditions. This designation is based on both ongoing armed conflict and extraordinary and temporary conditions in Cameroon that prevent Cameroonian nationals, and those of no nationality who last habitually resided in Cameroon, from returning to Cameroon safely. The conditions result from the extreme violence between government forces and armed separatists and a significant rise in attacks from Boko Haram, the combination of which has triggered a humanitarian crisis. Extreme violence and the widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure have led to economic instability, food insecurity, and several hundred thousand displaced Cameroonians without access to schools, hospitals, and other critical services.

This marks the first time the Secretary of DHS will permit qualifying nationals of Cameroon to remain temporarily in the United States pursuant to a TPS designation of that country. Individuals eligible for TPS under this designation must have continuously resided in the United States since April 14, 2022. Individuals who attempt to travel to the United States after April 14, 2022, will not be eligible for TPS. Cameroon’s 18-month designation will go into effect on the publication date of the forthcoming Federal Register notice. The Federal Register notice will provide instructions for applying for TPS and an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). TPS applicants must meet all eligibility requirements and undergo security and background checks.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON A SPECIFIC SITUATION, PLEASE CONTACT:

Lisa Shea is a shareholder at Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian, P.C. She is leading the firm’s Immigration practice, as well as Immigration Chair for the Prince William County Bar Association.  If you have additional questions or concerns contact Lisa Shea at or call us at 703-335-2009.

www.immigrantsfirst.com (for information about immigration solutions)
www.vfnlaw.com (for information about solutions in other areas of law)

This blog post is not intended to provide legal advice or substitute for the advice of legal counsel with respect to specific facts and situations. See disclaimer

19
Apr
2022

Dealing with Disputes

By Brett Callahan

People often want to know what the difference is between mediation and arbitration.  It all comes down to who makes the final decision on how to resolve the issue, you or someone else. “Traditional” litigation often presents the same two options: do you want to settle the case, giving you some control over how things come out or do you want to go before a judge or jury and let them decide?

            There are benefits and risks to each approach.  In situations like mediation and settlement negotiations, you have control over the outcome, but so does the opposing party, since they also have to agree.  You would not be in a dispute with the other side if both were 100% in agreement, so to come up with something you will both agree on, neither of you are going to get 100% of what you want.  Also, there are often times when coming up with a compromise does not seem to be an option.  Perhaps the other party isn’t willing to consider a compromise or is being nonresponsive.  Perhaps they say they are willing to compromise, but mostly they just seem to be asking you to compromise.  Perhaps there simply doesn’t appear to be any room to compromise, because there are only two options.

            If the parties cannot come up with a solution themselves, they have to turn to a third party to make the decision for them, which is where lawsuits and arbitration come in.  Because both parties do not have to agree with whatever decision the judge, jury, or arbitrator makes, there is a chance you might get everything you ask for.  However, there is also a chance you get nothing you ask for.  That is where the risk comes in for both sides.  There is no such thing as a “slam dunk” case, no matter how much the facts and law appear to be on your side and no matter how brilliant and qualified you and your litigation team may be.  Any experienced litigator will tell you there is always a risk for you when someone else makes the decisions.

            So if mediation and arbitration are the same as settlement or going to trial, why are they called “alternative dispute resolution”?  The goal of mediation and arbitration is to speed up and reduce the cost of reaching a resolution.  Additionally, you generally have to agree to participate in arbitration or mediation, unlike in litigation where you can find yourself a party before a court without wanting to be there.  You also usually have to pay the mediation/arbitration company and mediator or arbitrator hourly out of pocket yourself or split the costs between the parties.  Courts usually have some set fees, but they also receive governmental funds, and you aren’t directly paying the judge hourly for their time.  That variability in mediation and arbitration costs means that there are times when mediation and arbitration are not necessarily going to be a less expensive option than more traditional litigation.

            Deciding what path to take to resolve your dispute is complicated as there are usually a number of options in any case.  Additionally, as the matter evolves, that analysis can change, so it is important to be prepared to revisit these decisions regularly to make sure you are still on the best path to reach your goal outcome.  The exact wording and use can vary, but below is a very basic glossary of “dispute resolution” terminology, which will hopefully help you have those discussions with your attorney.

Arbitration – In arbitration, the parties present their dispute to an arbitrator, who decides the resolution.  The parties must agree to arbitrate before arbitration, but most often this agreement is found in a contract the parties entered into before the dispute arose.  Arbitration is generally faster and less formal than proceeding before the courts.  However, because arbitrators’ decisions are legally binding, there are also appeals processes, in the event, that one party wants to contest the outcome.

Demand Letter – A demand letter is often the first “formal” action in a dispute.  One party or their attorney will generally summarize in writing the dispute, from that party’s perspective, and make a “demand” of what they want the other party to do to resolve the matter.  A demand letter may be a legal prerequisite under a contract or statute to taking further legal action, in some cases.  If a demand letter is a legal prerequisite, there are usually other specific requirements of what the demand letter must contain or how the demand must be made to qualify as that legal prerequisite.  If the other party complies with whatever is demanded in the letter, that may be the end of the matter, or, if not, the parties may move into pre-litigation settlement negotiations, file a lawsuit, or seek arbitration or mediation. 

Dispositive Motion – Not all contested lawsuits go all the way to trial.  Sometimes there are legal reasons why the court can “dispose” of the case, or parts of the case, before a full trial.  Even if a portion of the case will have to go to a full trial, partial dispositive motions are used to streamline the case.  The outcome of a dispositive motion can have a big impact on the strength or weakness of a party to negotiate a settlement on favorable terms.

Judicial Settlement Conference – A judicial settlement conference is similar to a mediation.  However, unlike mediation, judicial settlement conferences are generally only available to parties when a lawsuit has already been filed.  Judicial settlement programs are run through the courts, so there is often not a significant additional cost to participate in one.  In a judicial settlement conference, the neutral third party attempting to negotiate a resolution between the parties is generally a judge, although not the same judge who would proceed over a trial in the case.  As with mediation, the parties must ultimately agree upon the terms of the resolution, which are written as a legally enforceable agreement between the parties.

Mediation – In mediation, a trained neutral third party is involved to facilitate a resolution, similar to arbitration or litigation. However, unlike in litigation and arbitration, it is still the parties, not the third party who decides the final outcome.  If mediation is successful, the agreement between the parties is written as a legally enforceable agreement.

Settlement Conference – A settlement conference can be an umbrella terms for a meeting between the parties to try to resolve the dispute.  A settlement conference need not be facilitated by a third party and may just consist of the parties and their counsel.  However, in other cases, the term settlement conference may be used in the context of a third-party facilitated negotiation.  As with the other forms of dispute resolution between parties, if successful, the terms of the settlement are written as a legally enforceable agreement between the parties.

If you find yourself in a legal dispute with another party and want to review your options and determine the best path forward to meet your goals, the attorneys of Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian, P.C. may be able to help.  Please contact our office to speak with someone to discuss if we can assist you.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON A SPECIFIC SITUATION, PLEASE CONTACT:

Brett Callahan is a shareholder at Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian, P.C. She is leading the firm’s litigation department. If you have additional questions or concerns contact brett Callahan at  bcallahan@vfnlaw.com or call us at 703-369-4738.

This blog post is not intended to provide legal advice or substitute for the advice of legal counsel with respect to specific facts and situations. See disclaimer

24
Mar
2022

TPS FOR AFGHANISTAN ANNOUNCED

By Lisa Shea, Esq.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has designated Temporary Protected Status for Afghanistan due to the ongoing dire situation in Afghanistan with the Taliban takeover. Any Afghan who has lived in the United States as of March 15, 2022, and continues to live in the U.S., may qualify to register for TPS. Soon, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will have the application procedure on its website at www.uscis.gov.

TPS is a designation by the United States for citizens of a country that is experiencing, or has experienced, a significant humanitarian disaster such as war, earthquakes, hurricanes, and any other circumstance that prevents the country’s nationals from returning safely to their home country. TPS is usually designated for 6, 12 or 18 months and qualifies the recipient, who is present in the United States on the day of the designation, for an employment authorization document, a deferred status, giving relief from deportation, and the possibility of advance parole to travel outside the United States. It is not, however, by itself, a pathway to getting lawful permanent residency. The current Afghan TPS designation is for 18 months, after which there will likely be renewals, and if not, TPS designees will return to their prior immigration status.

Afghans may also qualify to extend their current immigration status, claim asylum, or adjust their status through work or a family member.

Reach out to us for a consultation if you have any questions about applying for TPS or any other form of relief. We successfully represent many Afghans in their immigration processes and are happy to assist.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON A SPECIFIC SITUATION, PLEASE CONTACT:

Lisa Shea is a shareholder at Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian, P.C. She is leading the firm’s Immigration practice, as well as Immigration Chair for the Prince William County Bar Association.  If you have additional questions or concerns contact Lisa Shea at or call us at 703-335-2009.

www.immigrantsfirst.com (for information about immigration solutions)
www.vfnlaw.com (for information about solutions in other areas of law)

This blog post is not intended to provide legal advice or substitute for the advice of legal counsel with respect to specific facts and situations. See disclaimer