immigration lawyer

Tag • Immigration Law Blog

Using FOIA to your Advantage

In the United States, you have the right to request important information from the federal government under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). As an individual working through the process of becoming an American citizen, you could be required to use this right at some point, especially if you run into legal issues when applying for a work visa or green card. This is because it is possible that there is background information about you in your immigration record that somehow complicates matters like this. Find out what information is available to the federal government by filing a FOIA request with the aid of an experienced Los Angeles immigration attorney. If the United States federal government has information about you that it can potentially use against you, you have a right to know about it.

How to Seek Information Under FOIA

Your immigration file contains information that can be of significant value to you. However, you can also potentially run into issues with obtaining this information if you came to the country before 1982 or if the information in your record has been redacted, or blacked out, because it contains the names of government officials or individuals other than yourself.

Before you start working with an attorney or contacting government agencies, determine which information you need. This will determine the agency with which you file your request and how you file it.

Once you determine the information you need, or if you determine that you need to see your entire immigration file, you or your attorney will make a formal request to the correct agency. This might be the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), or the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Along with your request, you will need to provide your reason for seeking the information. Your attorney can help you craft this statement and, if necessary, request that the officials handling the request expedite it if you are in a situation where your life, health, or safety is at risk.

Generally, a FOIA request takes five to six weeks to complete, sometimes up to 80 days. When you request that your case be expedited, you can expect to receive your file within 20 days to one month. If you are in need of more immediate information, your attorney can provide a detailed statement of how your life, health, safety, or liberty is at risk to have the request handled in an even quicker manner.

Work with a Los Angeles Immigration Attorney

If you need to file a FOIA request, work with an experienced immigration attorney who can guide you through the steps you need to take and help you understand the information you receive as a result of your request. To start working with immigration attorney Joshua L. Goldstein, schedule your legal consultation with The Law Offices of Joshua L. Goldstein, P.C., today.

2016: The Year Ahead in Immigration Law

Presidential Election

We’re in an election year and this election will have a big impact on immigration policy. The presidential campaigns are already going strong, and they’ve been pretty unusual and unpredictable so far.

On the Republican side, immigration has become a central issue in their campaigns. A number of the candidates have been speaking to and validating one of the worst characteristics in the American people – xenophobia. The messaging has gone past the point of offensive – it’s become racist.

Donald Trump has called for a ban on all Muslims entering the U.S.; has said Mexicans coming into the U.S. are rapists, criminals and drug dealers; has indicated that he would deport the over 11 million undocumented people in the U.S.; has plans to end birthright citizenship; and has stated he wants to build a “real wall” to keep out immigrants on the U.S.-Mexican border. While Ted Cruz doesn’t go quite as far as Trump in his rhetoric, he supported Trump’s plan to stop all Muslims from entering the U.S.; wants to ban non-Christian Syrian refugees; also wants to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border; supports the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants; and has stated he would triple border protection, among other things. Instead of reaching out to immigrants and seeing their potential to add to and improve the United States, the Republican party candidates talk about immigrants using words of prejudice and paranoia.

On the democratic side, the two main candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, both support the rights of immigrants as well as the idea of Comprehensive Immigration Reform with a path to citizenship. They’ve spoken out against the hate that the Republican candidates have been selling. They have reaffirmed their support of President Obama’s executive action on immigration reform and have each taken a stand against the recent deportation raids conducted by the Obama administration.

he next President will impact the immigration system in a number of ways – he or she will affect what happens with Comprehensive Immigration Reform, detention centers for immigrant mothers and children, deportation raids, discretionary relief policies, and enforcement priorities. So, the question is, will the American people elect a President who glorifies hate and intolerance, or will the country choose a candidate who will defend the rights of immigrants?

Recently, with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, the Presidential election has taken on even more importance for immigration. There is now a vacant Supreme Court seat. President Obama will try to nominate a candidate in the remaining months that he is in office, but he is already getting a large amount of pushback from Republicans. Republicans are urging the Senate to delay the consideration and confirmation of any Supreme Court nominee until the next President is in office. With many important Supreme Court cases in the pipeline, including United States v. Texas (the case that will determine the legitimacy of Obama’s executive action on immigration), the appointment of a new Supreme Court Justice is critical. We’ll provide more updates and information on the United States v. Texas case and Justice Scalia’s potential replacements in our next newsletter!

Reporting a foreign birth abroad to a US consulate

Immigration Attorney – Boston, MA

I recently spoke on immigration issues Islamic Society of New England in Quincy, Massachusetts. It was a great night and I certainly appreciated the warm reception and generous hospitality of Imam Khalid.

In my presentation, I stressed the importance of legal representation. It always sounds so self-serving when I tell people that they should hire a immigration lawyer. I’m an immigration lawyer and so, of course, I would recommend hiring a lawyer. But I say this because I see people again and again making the same simple immigration mistakes that could have been easily avoided if only they had consulted with a decent immigration attorney beforehand.

At the mosque in Quincy, MA, I fielded many good questions on a variety of immigration topics. Several people wanted to know how to report a foreign birth abroad. Here’s the lead-up to the question and a common situation: a guy files an N-400 to become a naturalized U.S. citizen. After gaining U.S. citizenship, he returns to his home country, gets married and has a child. So question is how do you get the wife and child green cards so they can immigrate to the United States?

First, the U.S. citizen husband needs to file a petition for immigrant visa for his wife. You can do this by filing Form I-130 with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). But don’t make the mistake of thinking that the child will automatically gain immigration benefits simply because by being listed on the wife’s immigration form. A separate visa petition (I-130) must be filed for the child.

But another way around this problem exists. Under certain circumstances, the child could derive U.S. citizenship from the father even if born outside the U.S and even if the mother is not a U.S. citizen. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, a father will transmit U.S. citizenship to his child if the following conditions are met:

1. The father must be physically present in the U.S. for a period of five years, two of which after age 14; and

2. A biological relationship must be established between the father and the child;

3. The father must agree in writing to support the child until 18 years; and

4. while the child is under the age of 18, the father either (a) legitimates
the child, (b) acknowledges paternity, or (c) establishes paternity in court.

If you can meet all of these requirements, your child already has US citizenship and, therefore, doesn’t need a visa to enter the US.  Instead, to enter the US, you will need to get a American passport for your child by filing Form FS-240 or Consular Report of Birth.  Along with the form, you should submit documentation to show that you meet all the requirements.  The form is filed at the US Consulate abroad in the country that your child lives.

The bottom line is that no one can properly gain admission into the US without either a visa, a green card or a US passport.  Seek the advice of a good immigration lawyer to make sure that each member of your family has some basis for gaining entry.

For more information or answers to your immigration question, please call or email me to set up a time to meet with me.

Just got your Green Card? Some tips from a Boston immigration lawyer.

On behalf of the lawyers in my Boston immigration office, I say congratulations! You just got your green card and are now a lawful permanent resident of the United States! Below are some general tips to avoid future immigration problems and continue on a smooth path towards citizenship.

I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residency–Get Ready! If you have a two-year green card (i.e., conditional residency based on marriage), remember that 90 days before the expiration of your green card, you and your spouse, together, will need to file a petition to remove the conditions on your permanent residency. This petition is called an I-751.  In order to get your I-751 petition approved, USCIS will expect you to submit extensive documentation to show that the underlying relationship between you and your spouse has been on-going since your I-485 was approved and that you continue to share your lives together.

Prepare for citizenship by recording your trips outside the U.S. If you travel outside the U.S. after you get your green card, write down the date that you left the U.S. and the date that you returned to the U.S for every trip you take after your I-485 is approved. You will need this information when you apply for citizenship. Some of my immigration clients mistakenly believe that their passport will contain stamps that will memorialize each of their trips abroad.  This is not necessarily true. These days, passports are machine-readable, and they often are scanned rather than stamped when you leave certain airports or when you cross the border via land to Canada. Thus, because your passport may not be stamped when you leave and enter the U.S., you cannot rely on it as an accurate record of your trips abroad. Keeping a record of your trips as you take them will save you time and effort when you apply for citizenship.

Don’t “abandon” your green card. As a permanent resident, you certainly are not legally required to remain within Massachusetts. In fact, one of the great benefits of being a green card holder is that you are free to travel within the U.S. and internationally. But, if you want to keep your green card, only temporary trips outside the United States are permitted. As a permanent resident, you could have future immigration problems if you travel outside the United States frequently or if the duration of your trips abroad are lengthy. From my experience working with immigration clients in Boston, the most effective way to lose your green card is to move abroad. Take a look
at your green card and you will see the words permanent resident card at the
top. Remember, the green card is not permanent but does require you to
reside permanently in the United States.You should avoid staying outside the U.S. for more than 6 months continuously. You should not remain outside the U.S. for an extended period of time without first consulting with an immigration lawyer in Boston.

If you have a green card, you must notify the Department of Homeland Security of any changes of address. As a green card holder, it is your responsibility to notify the Department of Homeland Security of any address changes. You can do this by filing Form AR-11. I recommend that you file Form AR-11 online through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS, formerly the INS) website. Once you have submitted Form AR-11, keep a copy of it for your records. If you have a green card and also have an immigration application that is pending with USCIS, you must also separately notify USCIS of any changes of address by calling its National Customer Service Center at 800-375-5283.  As an immigration lawyer, I handle change of address notification for all of my immigration clients and maintain records of each address change.

Register for Selective Service. If you are male, living in the U.S. as a permanent resident (i.e., green card holder) and between the ages of 18 and 25, you are probably required to register with Selective Service. Failure to do so could negatively impact your chances of gaining citizenship through naturalization. Contact the Selective Service System for more information.

Don’t commit crimes! (especially during the first five years after you become a permanent resident)  Of course, it’s generally a pretty bad idea to break the law.  But green card holders have no room for error.  Many people are shocked to discover the incredibly harsh immigration consequences of seemingly minor criminal offenses. Shoplifting, for instance, may be considered a relatively petty misdemeanor under Massachusetts law. But, if committed within the first five years of your status as a green card holder, a Massachusetts shoplifting conviction could result in your certain deportation from the United States without any chance for relief.

If you have ever appeared in a criminal court, do not travel outside the United States without first consulting with an immigration lawyer. I constantly meet with immigration clients in Boston who have criminal convictions and who mistakenly believe that one or all of their previous criminal cases were dismissed. Keep in mind that a Massachusetts district court judge may have told you that your criminal case was dismissed, and your criminal defense lawyer may have also told your that your criminal case will not show up on your record; but for immigration purposes, you may still have a criminal conviction!  Before you book your flight abroad, call me and set up an immigration consultation in my Boston office.

Again, congratulation on becoming a permanent resident. I hope these tips help guide you towards U.S. citizenship.