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Immigration Blog



More than 100 suspected illegal immigrants were found being held hostage in a filthy Houston stash house on Wednesday, March 19, 2014 police said the hostages — 94 adult males, 14 adult females and two children — were held against their will by smugglers in the one-story home. Five smugglers were arrested following the raid.

“There is no hot water in the house,” said Houston Police Department Spokesman John Cannon. “There is a toilet that partially works, one bathroom for in excess of 100 people.”

Police said there was human waste all over the house and deadlocks on the inside doors to keep the hostages from being able to escape.

The victims included a 24-year-old pregnant woman and her two children, ages 5 and 7. The woman’s mother had tipped police that a smuggler, who was paid to bring them across the border from Mexico, refused to release them until he got more money.

Visitor Visa Denials: 10 Mind-Blowing Facts!

Recently, the latest numbers were released on visitor visa denial rates. These statistics are very revealing.

Keep in mind, it’s all about the presentation of the application.You must show that you have firm ties to your nation and a reason to return, such as a job, property and/or family there.

​In any case, here are 10 mind-blowing facts about visitor visa denials:

  • You might think that with all of the poverty-stricken favelas, Brazilians have a tough time getting visitor visas. Not true with only a 3.5% refusal rate.
  • On the other hand, considering its stability and high employment, you would conclude that Canadians have an easy time. Also not true with a very high 43.1% denial rate.
  • Egypt with its ongoing troubles would likely have a high refusal rate, right? But it’s 39.5%, which is relatively low. Similarly, with millions displaced, Syrians who apply for visitor visa to the U.S. are denied at a 46.1% rate. The numbers are not much different for two other countries with similar histories: Iran 48.2% and Iraq 39.2%.
  • Great Britain And Northern Ireland – one might “slam-dunk,” but still 16.9% are denied visitor visa issuance.
  • Haiti, still reeling from natural disaster, has a 47.1% refusal – which means more than half who apply are approved.
  • Libya, stinging after recent events, would be unlikely to see many of its citizens allowed to visit the U.S.? Wrong. Only 33.8% are denied visitor visa.
  • Here is perhaps the most incredible fact: millions have crossed the border from Mexico, yet only 12.1% of those who ask to travel here legally are denied visitor visa.
  • Norway, for some peculiar reason, has a variably high 19.1% denial rate.
  • Pakistan, long on the watch lists, has a variably low 38.5% denial rate.
  • About 90% of visitor visa applicants from Russia are granted which is pretty remarkable considering the many reasons one might choose to stay in the US.

​What do we learn from the above data? If you are applying for a visitor visa, you might seriously consider the counsel of a great immigration attorney, as preparation of the application makes all the difference.

Cancellation of Removal (COR) Stop-Time Rule

As an immigration lawyer who assists clients in deportation proceedings, it is often important to review and determine whether a client is eligible for cancellation of removal (COR) when assessing whether or not to go forward on an application for immigration benefits in immigration court.

For example, in the case of an applicant for naturalization where a criminal conviction rendering them deportable exists, but where there are strong equities to prevent removal under an application for cancellation of removal should the applicant be referred to immigration proceedings.

​Under 240A(b), a person is eligible for cancellation of removal if 1) the individual has been physically present in the United States for a continuous period of not less than 10 years immediately preceding the date of such application 2) the individual establishes that removal would result in exceptional and extremely unusual hardship to the alien’s spouse, parent or child, who is a citizen of the United States, or alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence 3) the individual has been a person of good moral character during such period ,and 4) the individual has not been convicted of an offense under 1182(a)(2), 1227(a)(2) or 1227(a)(3).


It has been over three months since Typhoon Yolanda pummeled through the central part of the Philippines, leaving widespread loss of lives and damage to properties. Typhoon Haiyan and Yolanda affected more than 16 million Filipinos. Recovery and rebuilding efforts could take years.

Last December, the Philippines sent a request to the U.S. Department of State to designate the Philippines under Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a humanitarian relief that would allow Filipino nationals currently living in the United States to be able to work and stay here legally during the recovery period. It would also protect those who qualify from deportation.

But two months after the request was filed, TPS has not been granted to the Philippines. On February 6, a letter was sent to Secretary John Kerry asking for his support in the granting of TPS to Filipino nationals in the U.S. from 19 U.S. Senators including Senators Dean Heller and Harry Reid of Nevada. No word yet, on Kerry’s response.

From online petitions to private meetings with officials of various government agencies reviewing the TPS application, community leaders throughout the United States will tirelessly keep pushing for TPS to be granted.

American Immigration Lawyers Association’s member Rio Guerrero said. “We know we have allies in the Department of State who are pushing for TPS, we remain confident that it will be granted, and we’re working closely with the Philippine Embassy to get that accomplished.”


On March 4, 2013, USCIS began a new provisional unlawful presence waiver program for certain relatives of U.S. citizens whose only ground of inadmissibility is unlawful presence in the United States under section 212(a)(9)(B)(i)(I) and (II) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). See 78 FR 536-01 (January 3, 2013). The provisional unlawful presence waiver process allows immediate relatives of U.S. citizens (spouses, children, or parents) who are currently residing in the United States to apply for a provisional waiver while in the United States, provided they meet all eligibility requirements outlined in 8 CFR 212.7(e) and warrant a favorable exercise of discretion.

There are several circumstances that may render an individual ineligible for a provisional unlawful presence waiver. For example, individuals with final orders of exclusion, deportation, or removal; individuals who are currently in removal proceedings that are not administratively closed at the time of filing; and individuals who have a pending application with USCIS for lawful permanent resident status are not eligible to apply for the provisional unlawful presence waiver. Individuals for whom there is a reason to believe that they may be subject to grounds of inadmissibility other than unlawful presence at the time of the immigrant visa interview with a Department of State (DOS) consular officer also are ineligible for the provisional unlawful presence waiver. See 8 CFR 212.7(e) (2013).

If a USCIS officer determines, based on the record, that there is a reason to believe that the applicant may be subject to a ground of inadmissibility other than unlawful presence at the time of his or her immigrant visa interview with a DOS consular officer, USCIS will deny the request for a provisional unlawful presence waiver. See 8 CFR 212.7(e)(4)(i) (2013).In some cases, USCIS has denied a Form I-601A if an applicant has any criminal history.

In these cases, if the record contains evidence that an applicant was charged with an offense or convicted of any crime (other than minor traffic citations such as parking violations, red light/stop sign violations, expired license or registration, or similar offenses), regardless of the sentence imposed or whether the offense is a crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT), USCIS has denied the Form I-601A.11

All applicants who are ineligible for a provisional unlawful presence waiver, including applicants with a criminal history, may seek a waiver of inadmissibility abroad after they appear for their immigrant visa interviews at a U.S. Embassy or consulate.

USCIS has examined whether USCIS officers should find a reason to believe that an applicant may be subject to inadmissibility under INA section 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I) at the time of the immigrant visa interview if it appears that the applicant’s criminal offense falls within the “petty offense” or “youthful offender” exception under INA section 212(a)(2)(A)(ii) or it appears that the applicant’s criminal offense is not a crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT) under INA section 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I).

​According to USCIS, USCIS officers should review all evidence in the record, including any evidence submitted by the applicant or the attorney of record. If, based on all evidence in the record, it appears that the applicant’s criminal offense: (1) falls within the “petty offense” or “youthful offender” exception under INA section 212(a)(2)(A)(ii) at the time of the I-601A adjudication, or (2) is not a CIMT under INA section 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I) that would render the applicant inadmissible, then USCIS officers should not find a reason to believe that the individual may be subject to inadmissibility under INA section 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I) at the time of the immigrant visa interview solely on account of that criminal offense. The USCIS officer should continue with the adjudication to determine whether the applicant meets the other requirements for the provisional unlawful presence waiver, including whether the applicant warrants a favorable exercise of discretion.


Nevada has become the latest state to allow illegal immigrants to obtain a driver’s license. In Nevada, Democratic-led lawmakers approved a driver’s license law in 2013. It was signed by Republican Governor Brian Sandoval, our state’s first Hispanic Governor, who considers it a public safety measure, and went into effect at the beginning of January.

“Allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s privilege card will increase the number of drivers on Nevada’s roads that are insured and aware of traffic rules and regulations,” Sandoval said in a statement after signing the bill.

Those applying for driver’s licenses must show some proof of their identity as well as evidence of Nevada residency and insurance. New drivers must pass a driving test and pay to retake the test if they fail.

The information provided for the licenses, however, may not be used against them for purposes of enforcing immigration laws, a key provision in Nevada, where about a fourth of all residents are Latino.

​Other states that have approved similar laws include Utah, Washington, Maryland, Oregon, Connecticut, California, New Mexico and Illinois, along with the District of Columbia.


Republican House leaders released their guidelines for overhauling the nation’s immigration system on January 30, drawing measured praise from reform supporters for opening the door to negotiations with Democrats that could lead to passage of a bill this year.

But the guidelines also set off a fiery debate among immigration advocates. On one side are those who are willing to settle for the GOP’s offer of legalization for undocumented immigrants, but no special pathway to citizenship. On the other are those who insist any immigration reform bill must ultimately include citizenship.

That debate is expected to grow louder as Republicans move from translating the guidelines into actual legislation that will need the support of both Republicans and Democrats to pass.

Democrats strongly support a pathway to citizenship for most undocumented immigrants, including those who came here as adults, and some have said they won’t support legislation that permanently bars undocumented immigrants from becoming citizens.

The standards represent the first concrete look at what GOP leaders are thinking as they begin their efforts to persuade rank-and-file House Republicans to take up immigration reform this year.

No legislation has been introduced by House leaders that tackles the divisive issue of what to do about immigrants living illegally in the United States.

The principles state undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children and who meet certain eligibility requirements should be able to become legal residents and citizens.

​However, for undocumented immigrants who as adults entered the United States illegally or overstayed visas, there should be no “special path to citizenship,” according to the principles. They could earn legal status and stay in the United States if they “admit their culpability, pass rigorous background checks, pay significant fines and back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civics, and (are) able to support themselves and their families (without access to public benefits).”

The document also reasserts GOP leaders’ stance that they will not consider the comprehensive immigration-reform bill passed by the Senate in June. The Senate bill, which included a 13-year pathway to citizenship, stalled in the House.

Before legal status is granted to people who are in the country illegally, certain border and interior enforcement standards — which are not spelled out — would have to be met, the document states. In addition, visas and green cards should be given out based on the needs of U.S. employers, not based on whether visa seekers have family members living in the U.S.

The Republican guidelines offer an opportunity for young immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children to obtain legal status and citizenship as long as they meet certain eligibility standards, serve in the military or earn a college degree.

But the guidelines take a tougher stance against undocumented adult immigrants saying no special path to citizenship should be offered to people who broke immigration laws because “that would be unfair to those immigrants who played by the rules and harmful to promoting the rule of law.”

​Instead, undocumented immigrants would be able to live legally without fear of deportation if they met certain criteria, including passing background checks, paying fines and back taxes, learning English and being able to support themselves without public benefits. Criminals, gang members and sex offenders would not be eligible for the program.

The guidelines do not say whether undocumented immigrants who gained legal status would be barred from ever becoming citizens or could earn their way to citizenship through traditional channels, such as being sponsored by an employer or a relative who is a U.S. citizen.

Those who do have legal relatives, such as children over age 21 born in the U.S., would still have to wait for years or decades because of visa quotas. Even undocumented immigrants married to U.S. citizens wouldn’t be able to become citizens if they entered the country illegally under current rules that require them to return first to their home country and then bar them from returning for 10 years.

​​Under the Senate plan, undocumented immigrants would have to wait for 10 years after receiving provisional visas before they became eligible to apply for permanent residency. After three years as permanent residents, they would be eligible to apply for citizenship.

When Do You Need to Apply for Advance Parole?

Individuals who are in the United States are advised not to leave the country once they have filed their application for a green card. However, if you have to go on an emergency trip, one which cannot be postponed, you can make short international trips if you have an advance parole document.

The advance parole document, also known as the travel document, is not a requirement for departure from the United States. However, with your permanent residence status pending, border authorities may rule that you abandoned your application halfway through the process. Thus, without the advance parole document, they may not allow you back into the country.

As green card applications take a long time to be processed (anywhere from nine months to a year), there might be any number of reasons, applicants may want to leave the country. These include business trips, weddings or even family emergencies. Thus, the Advance Parole document caters for this convenience.

If you need the advance parole document, you need to apply for it before you leave the United States.

Moreover, as these documents will not be shipped overseas, you will also need to receive the document before leaving the United States. To apply for the document, you will need to fill out and file Form I-131, known as the Application for Travel Document. You can fill out and file this form together with your main application for green card.

Moreover, the advance parole document application form may also be filed when the I-485 application form is pending. The application fee for filing the Form I-131 is $360. In some cases, an additional biometric fee of $85 may be charged as well if deemed necessary.

​Processing times of such official documents have been known to vary. Usually, the advance parole document application may take three months to be processed. However, the document can be expedited for an additional fee if the applicant presents a valid reason such as having an urgent family emergency to attend to.

The Advance parole document is valid for one year. If necessary, the document can be renewed. If you are taking a trip using this travel document, you are advised not to extend the trip longer than a month as it is considered the maximum amount of time that one should be overseas while their permanent resident status is pending.

Increase of International Marriages in the U.S.

International marriages have become rather popular in the United States. A number of individuals have taken up the dual intent K1 visa to grant their spouses entry to the United States through international marriages. The K-1 visa grants the fiancé or fiancée of a United States citizen entry to the United States. As the visa is submitted by the U.S citizen petitioner, the foreigner must marry the petitioner within 90 days of entry. If the foreign citizen does not meet this requirement, they will be required to leave the United States within 30 days. Once married, the foreign citizen can adjust their status to become a lawful permanent resident of the United States.

It should be noted that a large majority of K-1 visas applied for are approved. Statistics from 2009 show that 95% of all K-1 visas applied for in that year alone were approved. Statistically, non-immigrants admitted to the United States on a K-1 visa come mostly from Russia and Ukraine. Other countries that have notably high non-immigrants admitted to the United States though the K-1 visa are Germany, Poland, Romania and the United Kingdom. Countries such as Russia, Ukraine and Poland have been identified as some of the notable countries exporting brides and in some cases grooms via the K-1 visa. Statistics also show that the large number of individuals seeking K-1 visas are young women who fall within the 18-24 demographic.

​These statistics further affirm that the number of international marriages in the United States has largely increased as more individuals use the K-1 visa to gain entry to the United States. However, over the years, the K-1 visa petition has been tightened to ensure that countries exporting brides and grooms to the United States are less able to do so. This includes a rigorous interview process designed to test the credibility of the relationship between the U.S citizen and his foreign spouse as well as further investigations into the nature of the marriage. As such, individuals will be hard-pressed to validate their relationship before USCIS officials will approve their K-1 visa application.

Applying For Immigration Fee Waivers

Though immigration can be a costly procedure, there is no reason that coming to the United States should be strictly a rich person’s game. Our immigration attorneys in Las Vegas like to see all types achieve the American dream, be they wealthy foreign investors or the tired and poor denoted by Lady Liberty. It is for this latter group that the USCIS offers waivers for many of its immigration fees.

Fee waivers are granted with careful discretion, and are only granted if the applicant can demonstrate an inability to pay the requested fee. To qualify, one of the following must apply to you:

Your household is receiving a benefit that is determined by the income or resources of the individuals in question.

Your household falls within the 150% poverty level.

You are experiencing an unexpected financial hardship, like an emergency medical expense, that compromises your ability to pay the filing fee.

If you are applying for a fee waiver, you should fill out Form I-912 and submit it along with the application in question. Do not submit these separately. Remember that not all applications are admissible for a fee waiver, and you should check to see if the particular fee you wish to waive falls under the fee waiver rules.

​If you are in the United States and your work permit or status needs to be renewed, realize that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS, formerly called the INS) is extremely backed up. Make sure to PLAN FOR DELAYS. Cope by turning in your application far in advance. This is particularly important if your legal status has an expiration date on it. If you fall out of status, the immigration authorities could arrest you.