A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration attorney and counsel. Contact Info: 732-632-9888, http://www.1visa1.com/ (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Trump's Immigration Executive Orders: Measures To Protect Yourself

The President's recent executive orders on immigration have created chaos and confusion in the immigrant communities.  The most recent order suspending the entry of nationals from seven countries with terrorist ties has resulted in delays, detentions and protests at several international airports.  More changes in immigration policies and executive orders are expected in the near future. The following tips and guidelines should help immigrants to avoid "getting in trouble:"

Do not travel outside of the United States unless it is an absolute emergency.  Nationals from the seven suspended countries clearly are not allowed to enter the U.S.  Even if you don't come from those countries, you might still have difficulties returning to the U.S.  This is particularly true if you are from a country with a large Muslin population. Your country could be added to the list in the future. The current policy is to use heightened scrutiny against every non-citizen. As such, nobody is really safe when it comes to foreign travel. 

Apply for citizenship through the naturalization as soon as possible.  As tough as the current administration's immigration policy may be, it would still be difficult for the government to legally deport a U.S. citizen.  An American green card is not a guarantee of one's ability to stay in or return to the United States, as illustrated by the recent detention of permanent residents at the airports.  It usually requires five years of legal residency to apply for naturalization, unless you are married to a U.S. citizen (in which case only three years are needed).  

Apply for any other eligible applications or benefits as soon as possible.  If you are married to a U.S. citizen and plan to apply for a green card, do it immediately! If you intend to apply for an H-1B visa to work in the U.S., do it as soon as possible!  If you need to extend or change your status, do it now! The sooner you submit your application, the less likely that you will be affected by any future changes in immigration policy. 

File for change/extension of status in the U.S. rather than via overseas consular processing.  If you have a choice of applying for an immigration status in the U.S., take it. For example, although Canadians usually apply for their TN status at the U.S.-Canada border, they should now seriously consider applying from within the U.S. now to avoid a departure. 

Follow the rules and regulations.  Immigration laws are complex.  There are many rules and regulations on just about every type of application and visa program.  And they are sometimes illogical and inconsistent.  However, it is still extremely important to follow them strictly.  Take the H-1B visa program as an example, whenever one's employment has changed materially, a new or amended petition must be filed before the change takes place. Do not try to cut corner.  Follow the rules.

Stay out of trouble in general.  Many a time clients get into trouble because of something minor, such as a traffic violation or a fight at the bar.  However, such small incidents could lead to bigger problems when law enforcement officers are involved.  Immigration status will be checked and questionable individuals could be referred to the federal immigration officers.  The Trump Administration has issued directives to cooperate with state and local law enforcement agencies to enforce the immigration laws. 

Consult with an attorney.  It is more important than ever for immigrants to consult with an experienced immigration attorney when making a decision about their case or travel plans.  Some clients like to do things on their own because they think they are capable of handing their immigration case. They usually come to me when they've encountered a problem.  It might have worked before but in this environment, it is too risky to do it on your own. An experienced immigration attorney not only possesses the expertise about the trade but also the most updated information through the immigration lawyers association.  

Report your change of address within 10 days.  No matter how many times I remind clients to file the AR-11 form to report their change of address, some of them are still not heeding.  It is actually a deportable offense for any noncitizens who knowingly fails to file their change of address form within ten days of their move.  Do it to protect yourself.

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