USCIS Reminds Naturalization Applicants Controlled Substance Use a Bar to Naturalization

Dallas immigration lawyers

Dallas immigration lawyers – Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz, P.C.

Dallas, TX (Law Firm Newswire) June 14, 2019 – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a guidance on April 19, 2019, advising lawful permanent residents that controlled substance use remains illegal under federal law and can negatively impact the outcome of a naturalization application. Violations of federal controlled substance laws, including for marijuana use or possession, are generally a basis for denying U.S. citizenship.

The new USCIS policy alert reminds naturalization applicants that they could be found to lack good moral character for participating in marijuana-related activities including possession, cultivation, manufacturing, dispensing or distribution. The rule applies even when the activity in question would not be an offense under the laws of the applicant’s state of residence such as Colorado or California.

Possession, use or distribution of marijuana is illegal under federal law under the Controlled Substances Act, which classifies marijuana as a Schedule I substance that is prohibited and has no accepted medical use.

“In an era of liberalization of state controlled substance laws legalizing the sale of marijuana in many states, federal law still punishes what state law now permits: the sale of medical and personal use marijuana,” said Stewart Rabinowitz of the Dallas and Frisco law firm of Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz, P.C. “Perhaps one day federal law will catch up with those states which have elected to decriminalize. Until then, lawful permanent residents who seek to naturalize are on notice that federal drug violations can be fatal to becoming a U.S. citizen.”

The USCIS policy alert highlights inconsistencies between state and federal laws regarding marijuana. A majority of states have legalized the drug in full or in part. There are currently 10 U.S. states, as well as the District of Columbia, that have enacted laws permitting marijuana use for recreational purposes. About two-thirds of the states have legalized medical marijuana.

Demonstrating good moral character is a key requirement for establishing eligibility for U.S. citizenship through naturalization. USCIS will generally deny naturalization to applicants who have been convicted of violating federal or state laws related to controlled substances during a five-year period prior to filing to naturalize. No conviction is necessary to establish a violation under federal immigration laws. Simply admitting to engaging in marijuana-related activities could lead to a denial of naturalization.

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13155 Noel Road, Suite 900
Dallas, TX 75240
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U.S. Business Immigration Is Not Only About Skilled Workers

Houston, TX (Law Firm Newswire) June 11, 2019 – The stated intention of the current Administration is to cut back on family-based immigration and instead favor “merit-based” immigration. If such a system were to be put into place, it means the United States would give priority to high-skilled immigrants with degrees who speak fluent English, rather than choose immigrants with immediate relatives in the country.

This kind of a merit-based system is similar in nature to how Canada allows immigrants in the country. The problem in the United States is that the proposed changes to the immigration system are relatively scant on details.

While the arguments may seem to make sense on the surface, the fact is that the United States actually needs more low-skilled immigrants due to the fact that the country is in the midst of a significant labor shortage in all industries. It has become increasingly difficult to find construction laborers, hotel-cleaning staff and restaurant cooks.

In March, there were 1.4 million open positions for professionals, but only 811,000 out of work individuals with bachelor degrees seeking work. In the unskilled labour file there were 2.1 million jobs open for low-skilled workers, but only 1.2 million people without degrees were looking for work. That is two available job positions for every out of work person with a high school diploma or less. According to the Department of Labor (DOL), the number of jobs available every month has been higher than the number of people looking for work. This has not happened in at least twenty years.

“The high demand for workers is typically for the kind of jobs undocumented workers are already doing, and have done for years, such as working the fields, running orchards, taking off crops,” explained respected business immigration attorney Annie Banerjee. “If the government ignores this reality, it could make the labor shortage even worse. Furthermore, if the government ignores the reality of workers needed for farming, there is likely going to be a food shortage over time.”

According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) there are approximately 1 million green cards issued every year. Approximately 140,000 are employment based visas, with the remainder granted on the basis of refugee status, the diversity lottery and family connections.

“While we do need to modernize the immigration system, it needs to be done realistically and with an awareness of all aspects of a changing American landscape” said Banerjee.

Law Offices of Annie Banerjee
131 Brooks Street, Suite #300
Sugar Land, Texas 77478
Phone: (281) 242-9139

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Government Shutdown Will Affect Immigration Courts for Years to Come

Houston, TX (Law Firm Newswire) March 21, 2019 – The government shutdown affected many areas of government, including the shuttering of immigration courts. Roughly 400 immigration judges were furloughed. The 35-day shutdown threw the status of thousands of immigrants into limbo because the courts had yet to decide whether they can stay in the country or be deported.

As a result of the judges being furloughed, there are over 80,000 cases to be rescheduled to attempt to alleviate the backlog, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. Furloughed immigration judges are only able to hear cases for immigrants held in detention centers. In other words, they are only able to hear those cases that are deemed to be the most urgent. They cannot hear other cases, which does not help the system backlog.

There are about 385 judges across the United States, including about 15 in the Houston, Texas area, attempting to handle an ever-increasing caseload. An average immigration judge could oversee more than 2,000 cases.

There were approximately over 827,000 open cases prior to the shutdown, including over 51,000 in Houston, and as a result of the shutdown, there are now thousands of new cases adding to the backlog. Hearings scheduled during the shutdown were set on the docket years ago and now hundreds of immigrants that were to appear are facing years of waiting for their turn to come around again.

“It’s not just immigrants [in detention centers] that have been waiting for a hearing,” said respected Huston immigration attorney, Annie Banerjee, “the shutdown has affected those attempting to renew work permits, get a driver’s license or apply for asylum.” The delays, once thought to be tediously long, are now worse. “Texas had the third-most postponed hearings in the United States behind California and New York.”

The irony of a shutdown to ensure border security is not lost on the judges who now face staggering backlogs to keep up with and maintain the caseloads they face. Judges have now been rescheduling cases, some even to 2023. “The system, once confusing, complex and slow, is now even slower,” added Banerjee. “Recovery from the shutdown is going to take a long time. Should there be another one, the system is likely to sustain another major hit.”

Law Offices of Annie Banerjee
131 Brooks Street, Suite #300
Sugar Land, Texas 77478
Phone: (281) 242-9139

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DHS Issues a Final Rule on H-1B Cap Petitions

Dallas immigration lawyers

Dallas immigration lawyers – Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz, P.C.

Dallas, TX (Law Firm Newswire) March 7, 2019 – On January 31, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a final rule in the Federal Register announcing important changes to the annual H-1B cap selection process.

Starting April 1, 2019, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will conduct the advanced degree exemption and regular cap H-1B visa lotteries in reverse order. The new DHS rule also establishes an electronic pre-registration requirement for employers planning to file cap-subject H-1B petitions.

“Conceptually, having a lottery to allocate available H-1B visa numbers before requiring petition submission makes sense and could save U.S. employers the expense of preparing a full blown H-1B petition only to learn that the Company’s petition had not been selected. Like any new program, how the registration plays out will be important,” said Stewart Rabinowitz of the Dallas and Frisco law firm of Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz, P.C.

The DHS final rule said USCIS will begin requiring electronic pre-registration for employers planning to file cap-subject H-1B petitions in fiscal year 2021. H-1B slots will then be allocated against the electronic registrations utilizing the new selection process introduced in 2019. Thus, filings for April 2019 will remain unaffected by the electronic registration rule.

The USCIS lottery selection process traditionally started with the 20,000 master’s cap H-1B petitions first. Then, petitions that were not chosen were added to the pool for the 65,000 petitions to be chosen for the H-1B regular cap limit.

“By reversing the order of the two lotteries and by holding 65,000 general H-1B cap petitions first and then holding the 20,000 H-1B cap lottery for U.S. or higher master’s degree holders, new groups will be adversely impacted, such as secondary schools or other occupations which do not require a master’s degree at entry level,” said Rabinowitz. “Because the implementing H-1B statutory provisions are silent on preferring the special 20,000 H-1B for U.S. master’s or higher holder lottery over the general H-1B lottery, those issues will be examined in the next fiscal year when H-1B registration will take place.”

The DHS is expecting the reversal in the order of the H-1B lotteries to increase the chances of selection for approximately 16 percent of applicants or 5,340 workers with advanced degrees from U.S. institutions. As a result, there will be a decrease in the number of H-1B visas allocated to applicants with non-U.S. degrees and those who hold only bachelor’s degrees. The change falls in line with President Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” executive order.

Immigration Court Backlogs Increased During Government Shutdown

Dallas immigration lawyers

Dallas immigration lawyers – Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz, P.C.

Dallas, TX (Law Firm Newswire) February 8, 2019 – Immigration courts remained closed across the United States and there were estimates of up to 100,000 canceled hearings due to an ongoing partial government shutdown that began on December 22, 2018. The situation resulted in delays for almost all federal civil cases and increased backlogs of immigration court cases.

Many federal attorneys and judges were not working for the duration of the shutdown. Most immigration judges were furloughed on December 26, 2018. Only a quarter of the courts’ 400 judges were deemed “essential.” The majority of the several thousand cases that immigration courts typically see per day were cancelled without a future date being set.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a notice on the day the shutdown began announcing that the current lapse in federal funding would not affect the agency’s operations for the most part. But some of its programs — the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center Program, the E-Verify program, the Conrad 30 Waiver Program for J-1 medical doctors, and the non-minister religious workers immigration category — will either expire or suspend operations until funding resumes or Congress reauthorizes them.

“USCIS benefits operations are user funded and as such, are not affected by the budget impasse on annual appropriations, with limited exceptions,” said Stewart Rabinowitz of the Dallas and Frisco law firm of Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz, P.C. “But immigration judges are affected and 3/4 of all immigration judges are deemed non-essential, and are not working, shutting down proceedings in all but detained cases and delaying most of the 800,000+ pending immigration court cases. Ironic, isn’t it, that a partial government shutdown over funding a border wall results in delaying the potential deportation of thousands of persons in the U.S. that the Administration is eager to remove.”

More than 800,000 active immigration cases were pending prior to the government shutdown, according to data compiled by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse based on Department of Justice records. The backlog of cases facing U.S. judges is likely to increase due to the impasse. Ashley Tabaddor, President of the National Association of Immigration Judges, called the government shutdown a “tremendous disruption to cases in an already overburdened court.”

By Appointment Only
Three Galleria Tower
13155 Noel Road, Suite 900
Dallas, TX 75240
http://www.rabinowitzrabinowitz.com

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Changes Coming to the H-1B Lottery

Houston, TX (Law Firm Newswire) February 1, 2019 – For many years there have been talk about changes coming to the H-1B lottery. Finally, something did happen on December 3, 2018.

On December 3 the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a notice and a comment period for a proposed rule to change the H-1B lottery. The lottery would now be merit based with a new electronic registration process.

Petitioners would be required to first register with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Once an employee is chosen, in the lottery, USCIS would then ask for the whole petition. While it may speed up the system to a point, there is a concern that employers would use it to file for multiple employees, even some that do not qualify for a position, and thereby messing up the lottery.

“Making these changes does make it easier for U.S. Master’s Degree holders to score a lottery number,” said well-known Houston immigration attorney, Annie Banerjee. “Also, with the new procedure, the rates for entering the lottery are expected to be significantly lower.”

This new rule is not likely to go into effect until March 2019, as CIS is mandated to propose a rule, provide a 30-day public notice period for comments and then make the rule. The comment period for this particular proposed change in rules ended January 2, 2019 and it is likely CIS would require 90 to 180 days to take action on drafting and finalizing the rule. “In the alternative, it is also entirely possible this rule will not be implemented until 2020 given the short turn around time involved,” added Banerjee.

For those interested in finding out how the CIS changes may affect them, that information may be found here.

Given the uncertainty in the immigration system today, it is best to consult with an experienced business immigration attorney to find out what is needed to get on the right side of the law to hire workers.

Law Offices of Annie Banerjee
131 Brooks Street, Suite #300
Sugar Land, Texas 77478
Phone: (281) 242-9139

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