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Given the current delays by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, many green card renewal applicants have seen their estimated processing timelines come and go and they have yet to receive their new green cards. A green card is essential to show that the individual is a legal permanent resident and is thus legally allowed to work in the United States, return to the country after a trip abroad, and qualify for key benefits such as unemployment. At Lawit Law, we have received a number of calls from concerned immigrants who had timely filed their applications to renew their document or requested their naturalization. Applicants may be experiencing significant delays for a number of reasons, including the closing of Application Support Centers (where they would take your picture and fingerprints), the disruption caused by the end of the contracts with at least two companies that produce the physical green cards and work permits, the seemingly impending furloughs, and, of course, COVID-19.

If you are being affected by these delays, do not despair! Unless an immigration judge ends your status as a legal permanent resident and despite your physical green card expiring, you are still a legal permanent resident. Your status, unlike your green card, does not end after the card’s expiration date. If your green card is expiring and you need evidence of your immigration status, you may contact USCIS and request an “Infopass” appointment. These are short appointments where you can meet with an USCIS officer and request evidence of your current status. This would often times be on the form of an I-551 stamp on your passport, so make sure your passport is not expired! By the way, your green card is also an I-551! Just look in the back of the card!

The I-551 passport stamp is usually placed using red ink and is filled out with additional information (such as validity dates) and is something you can show your employer, Customs and Border Protection officers after a trip abroad, and any agency requesting evidence of your status. The challenge, however, may be to get your actual Infopass appointment. Given the current pandemic, you may be required to have a very pressing reason for USCIS to schedule your appointment. This could be an impeding emergency trip abroad or needing evidence of your status in order to keep your job.

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DACA is a wonderful benefit! At Lawit Law, we have seen how this form of temporary immigration relief has changed the lives of many of our clients. The issue many faced, however, is that they struggled to find the much needed evidence to apply. So we are sharing not only the list of requirements for DACA, but also the ways in which we have seen clients show their eligibility.

To be eligible for DACA, you must:

  • Have come to the United States before your 16th birthday
  • Have lived continuously in the U.S. since June 15, 2007 and until the time you apply for DACA
  • Have been present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012
  • Not have a lawful immigration status on June 15, 2012
  • Have been born on or after June 15, 1981
  • Be at least 15 years old at the time you apply for DACA (but you can apply at any age if you are in removal proceedings)
  • Have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, be an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or U.S. armed forces, or “be in school” on the date you submit your DACA application.
  • Don’t have a significant criminal record, which includes not having been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor, or three or more misdemeanor offenses.

Now, to the evidence. You will need to show evidence of your identity, which would most likely help you document that you meet the age requirements. If you have EVER been arrested, questioned, or detained by law enforcement, you should obtain copies of your records and have them reviewed by an immigration attorney. Note expunged or sealed convictions are still convictions for immigration purposes, just like criminal activities that are normally not considered felonies within the criminal context, but could pose a significant issue for your immigration case.

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The Social Security Administration is in charge of assigning Social Security Numbers to individuals. This document is crucial and its granted for purposes of identification and retirement benefits. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), hospitas, businesses, banks, schools, and other institutions use this number for identification purposes. An individual’s Social Security Number is also linked to the person’s credit history and payment of taxes.

Only United States citizens and those immigrants allowed to reside in the United States (such as those with a green card or work permit) are allowed to have a Social Security Number. In order to request a Social Security Number, individuals must do the following:

  • Complete an application with the Social Security Administration
  • Show evidence of their immigration status
  • Show evidence of their identity

If you are lawfully residing in the United States and have yet to receive your Social Security Number, you can approach your nearest SSA office .. If you have ever been assigned a lawful Social Security Number in the past, this number should not change.

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Several criminal acts and convictions could put an immigrant in danger of being deportable. Many chose to go through a process called “expungement,” which would allow them to clean their record, essentially deleting their history of criminal convictions. If a court agrees to seal or expunge a person’s criminal record, they are considered to never have committed a crime at all. However, this is a complicated process and many times does not have the desired effect for immigration purposes.

Even if an individual’s criminal records are expunged or sealed, prior criminal convictions could still cause issues on an immigration case. Expungements and sealment of records do not prevent the government from being aware of the record for immigration purposes. The record will always exist. However, you may still want to consider going through this process for other purposes, such as finding employment.

Each case is unique and should be closely evaluated, but individuals may request to have their arrests, court supervisions, and some probation sentences deleted from their record. Each state has its own rules, but generally the petition should be filed with the court having jurisdiction and after a certain number of years have passed since the conviction.

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This is another effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many schools have found it necessary to prevent the spread of the virus. At least for the upcoming fall semester, many colleges are saying goodbye to in-person classes and shifting to virtual classrooms. This seems like a convenient way to keep students on track for graduation and avoid the temporary shut down of classes, but the new setting does not seem to be favored by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

On July 6, 2020, ICE announced that those students holding F1 and M1 visas and who are scheduled to only take online classes would not be able to keep their status. These students are welcomed to take online classes for the upcoming fall 2020 semester, but they will not be granted a visa to the United States nor allowed into the country for these purposes. In addition, according to the new directive, those F1 and M1 students presently in the United States should leave if their classes are going to be fully online.

What should students do? Each case is different, but at least some students may be able to find alternatives that would allow them to remain in the United States. Here are a few:

  • You may register for in-person classes – Requirements vary between colleges, but you may be able to register for in-person classes at your school or another institution. If your program accepts it, you could remain here under the F1 or M1 visa.
  • Transfer colleges to attend in-person classes – This could also be an option. Be sure to check with your advisor and potential new college to make sure your credits are transferable.
  • Consider changing your status – Some students may be able to request a change of status if they qualify for some form of immigration relief. For instance, those who with a credible fear to return to their home countries or who have a relative able to petition for them and can apply for their status within the United States may be able to take online classes while they wait for their immigration case to be adjudicated.
If the only available option for the student is to take online classes, they will not be able to lawfully remain in the United States. If they do, they risk accruing unlawful presence and the government initiating removal proceedings against them.
Regardless of which option you choose, figuring out how to proceed can be quite burdensome. You should not waste any time and consult a reputable and experienced immigration attorney to evaluate your case.
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