Tag • Immigration Law Blog

Credit Building Tips for Los Angeles Residents

Whether you are a recent immigrant to the United States or you have been here for a long time, you can take steps to build positive credit. Having a high credit score will help you with your financial decisions in the future, whether you need to take out a loan to go to college or apply for a mortgage to purchase a home.

Many individuals, both immigrants and native-born Americans alike, do not know how to build their credit. If you are not sure where to start with building your credit, apply the following tips to your everyday life.

Consider a Secured Credit Card

If you do not have sufficient credit to qualify for an unsecured credit card, apply for a secured credit card. A secured credit card is a credit card that an applicant can obtain by putting down a sum of money as collateral with the lender. That sum of money then becomes his or her credit limit. For example, you can apply for a secured credit card with a $500 credit limit with the bank by giving the bank $500 in cash to use as collateral. Because of this collateral, anybody can open a secured credit card and begin building positive credit.

Pay your Bills on Time

Your rent, your utility bills, your credit card bills, and any other bills you have need to be paid on or before their due dates. This is key to building and maintaining positive credit. With credit card bills, it is possible to pay less than what is due, known as the “minimum payment.” This amount is printed on your credit card bill, but do not let yourself get into the habit of only paying the minimum payment each month – allowing your debt to accrue will actually cost you more money in the long run because you will need to pay interest on the balance you carry on your credit card.

Pay your Bills in Full

This goes with the issue above – not only should your credit card bills be paid on time, they should be paid in full. Alongside the issue of having to pay interest on debt accrued, you can also lose track of how much you owe to your lender and reach the point of “maxing out” your credit card.

Become an Authorized User on Another Person’s Card

If possible, you can also build your own credit score by becoming an authorized user on somebody else’s card. This other party could be your spouse or another relative, such as a parent or a sibling. Establish an agreement with this other party beforehand. As an authorized user of their credit card, you are not legally obligated to pay for the charges you make – they are. Discuss how you will reimburse him or her before you become an authorized user.

Work with a Los Angeles Immigration Attorney

Having a strong credit score can help you immensely when you need to take big steps with your finances. For guidance with the legal issues that can accompany these steps or other types of help during the immigration process, contact immigration attorney Joshua L. Goldstein at The Law Offices of Joshua L.Goldstein, P.C. today to set up your legal consultation.

How to Succeed in Los Angeles: Tips for Latinos

Moving to a new country is a significant milestone in your life. After working through the complicated processes of getting your paperwork in order, starting a job, and finding a house or apartment, you will likely find yourself still dealing with the struggles of assimilating to a new culture. Minor issues, such as difficulties related to the language barrier or cultural expectations that are unfamiliar to you, can complicate even simple tasks like applying for a job or conducting a bank transaction.

Keep the following tips in mind throughout the immigration process. By preparing yourself for the challenges you will face in Los Angeles, you can make them much easier for yourself.

Immerse Yourself in the Latino Community

Los Angeles is a large, culturally-diverse city. It is home to many different ethnic groups. Find other people who immigrated from your home country or those who simply share your language to ask questions and seek advice about any issues you face. You can find others in LA’s Latino community at church or at community events. Make an effort to be an active part of the community, and you will have connections who can help you when you need it.

Save Money

Moving to a new country is expensive, especially moving to a city that has a high cost of living like Los Angeles. If you are not careful with your finances, you can find yourself in debt very quickly. This can make it extremely difficult to build positive credit, which can in turn make it impossible to buy a home in the future, if this is a goal of yours.

Make Sure your Immigration Paperwork is Correct and Up-to-Date

If you are not yet a citizen of the United States, be sure that your necessary paperwork to complete the naturalization process does not lapse. Allowing your files to expire can put you in a difficult position, at best inconveniencing you and at worst, putting you in a position where you could be deported. Work with an experienced immigration attorney to ensure that all of your paperwork is up to date.

Build the Skills you Need to Work in the U.S.

Finding and maintaining a job in the United States is so much easier if you have a strong command of English. Other skills that can help you include computer and customer service skills. Find conversation groups for English learners at your local library or community center. These venues often also provide instruction in other vocational skills, such as computer literacy.

Work with a Los Angeles Immigration Attorney

Adjusting to life in a new city and country is not easy. However, you can lessen the burden by seeking guidance from an experienced Los Angeles immigration attorney. At The Law Offices of Joshua L. Goldstein, P.C., we are dedicated to working with recent immigrants to smooth out the naturalization process and resolve any issues they face. Contact our firm today to discuss the issues you are facing during your legal consultation.

Refugee vs. Immigrant: Differences & Similarities

In recent months, the topic of refugee rights has appeared in the news many times. There is misinformation being circulated about the legal definition of a refugee, and about the requirements they must comply with in order to be granted admission to the United States. Many are under the impression that a refugee must simply fit the requirements for any immigrant, and this is not the case. It is imperative to understand the differences, so that you apply for the status that works best for you.

What Is A Refugee?

United States immigration law defines a refugee in the same manner as the 1951 United Nations Convention & Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees (usually referred to as the Geneva Convention). According to the convention, a refugee is someone who is “unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.” In order to apply for refugee status, a person must be outside the United States, and meet all other admission criteria – in other words, they must be able to be found admissible even if they were not a potential refugee.

These requirements, contrary to what many might think, actually make it more difficult in many respects to gain admittance to the United States. Showing a well-founded fear of persecution is quite difficult, especially when coming from countries where records are not kept or have been destroyed. In order to establish a pattern of persecution or the likely possibility of future persecution, one cannot simply testify to a few isolated occurrences or a general climate of terror; one must be able to cite specifics, with corroboration.

After Admission

The other question that many people have regarding refugee status is whether or not they receive ‘special treatment’ once they are admitted to the United States. The answer is technically yes, at least by California law, but there are practical considerations underlying each type of assistance many refugees are able to receive.

For example, if a refugee is able to obtain status in the U.S., they are then able to work, without having to apply for an Employment Authorization Document. It is reasonable to assume that the overwhelming majority of refugees had to flee their homes with very few assets, and thus, the ability to work and provide for one’s family is more integral to them than it is to many immigrants, who may arrive with assets and other comforts. Opponents of this measure argue that it means fewer jobs for Americans, but only 1 percent of refugees at any given time are eligible to resettle, and of that number, fewer even try to enter the United States.

Another example is training in English as a second language (ESL). The California Refugee Resettlement Program provides English language training to refugees, though a portion of it is financed with money from the federal Refugee Social Services program, rather than the state’s coffers. The rationale is that while many immigrants may arrive with their families or friends, refugees likely have no support network in which to learn English. English language skills are also very important in many fields, which increases employment prospects.

An Immigration Attorney Can Help

Immigration law can be quite complex, and very often, the help of a professional can make a difference between confusion and confidence.The Law Offices of Joshua L. Goldstein, P.C. is an immigration law firm with offices in Boston and Los Angeles. We have years of experience navigating difficult immigration and refugee rights cases. Contact us today for a initial consultation.

Has Immigration detained your friend or family member? Now you can find their location online!

Boston Deportation Lawyer

Immigration and deportation defense lawyers now have a way to find the location of persons detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement by using ICE’s new online detention locator system.  If this online tool actually works as intended, this is an extremely useful development, which is long overdue.

Until now, the location of a ICE immigration detainee was a mystery to everyone–even immigration lawyers.  After being arrested and detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE Office of Detention and Removal, the detained immigrant would be placed into a jail, the location of which remained unknown.  Tracking down a detained immigrant involved guesswork and intuition.  The only way I knew to find someone detained by ICE was simply by calling around to the records departments for South Bay (Suffolk County House of Correction), Bristol, Plymouth and the other immigration detention facilities in the Boston area.  So let’s hope and pray that this online system works as planned.

Meanwhile, if you have a friend or family member who has been arrested by Immigration, please contact me.  I’d been happy to help you win their release on an immigration bond and to come up with a strategy to help them solve their immigration problem.

Former immigration client attacked in Boston with pasta!

As an immigration lawyer in Boston, this case must be one of my most unusual. I appeared on Boston’s Channel 5 news in connection with a bizarre incident that happened to one of my former clients. Click on this link here to read the story and watch the video.

Sure the story is strange.  But my former immigration client–who I helped get U.S. citizenship–did the right thing.  He remained calm.  And he called 9-11.  Fortunately, surveillance cameras captured everything.

All in all, I was happy to step in and help my former immigration client.

Want a green card through marriage? How your tax return might help or hurt.

Green Cards, Marriage and Taxes

As an immigration lawyer in Boston, I know next to nothing about accounting and tax law. But I do know a lot about how your tax return may impact your immigration case.

If you are going through any immigration process, you should expect immigration judges and officers to scrutinize your tax returns. For those who are in the process of applying for a green card through marriage to a permanent resident or to a U.S. citizen or who have filed an I-751 petition to remove the condition on permanent residency, I have 3 tips that may help you:

1. File your taxes jointly with your spouse using “married” status, if possible. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will consider a jointly filed, married tax return as evidence that your relationship to your spouse is bona fide or genuine. Of course, if you are seeking a permanent residency but don’t yet have a social security number it may be
impossible to file your taxes jointly with your spouse.   But it is absolutely imperative that you file a married, joint tax return if possible.  The reason that this is so important is that if you file your taxes separately or as “single” immigration authorities may get suspicious and conclude that you and your spouse have a relationship that was entered into solely for the purposes of getting a green card.  If you file “single” during a time that you are married, I suggest that you consider filing an amended tax return to fix this.

2. Make sure that the address on your W-2s confirms that you live with your spouse. USCIS will want to see your entire tax return, including all schedules, W-2s, 1099s and other schedules.  And if your paycheck is directly deposited into your bank account, then you might not be paying close attention to the address listed on your paycheck or W-2.  But if you are trying to convince an immigration officer that you live with you spouse, you had better be sure that address on your W-2 or paycheck should reflect that you and your spouse do in fact live together.

3. Provide your IRS tax transcripts to immigration authorities.  Whether you are in Immigration Court or appearing at an interview before a USCIS immigration officer, I recommend that you bring with you your IRS-certified tax transcripts and not a copy of your tax return.  The transcripts prove that your return was actually filed and is on record with the IRS and, therefore, is stronger evidence for immigration purposes.  I’ve seen plenty of denial letters from USCIS that say something along the lines of “although you provided photocopies of your tax return, you did not submit IRS-certified tax transcripts.”  The IRS tax transcripts are available at the IRS office in the JFK Federal Building, next to USCIS Boston District Office or can be obtained by filing Form 4506-T with IRS.

If you have more questions about taxes and immigration or any other immigration topic or if you need representation in Immigration Court or elsewhere, please call my Boston immigration law office at 617-722-005 to schedule an appointment.


Thinking of sealing or expunging your criminal record? A Boston immigration lawyer says think again

These days, it is not easy to get a job or housing benefits. And it is even tougher if you have a criminal record. To make things easier, criminal lawyers often recommend having your criminal record expunged or sealed. This can be great advice for people seeking work or housing benefits as you will effectively have no criminal record once your criminal record is expunged or sealed. Your Massachusetts CORI criminal history report will show “no adult criminal record,” and you can honestly say you have no criminal record when applying for jobs and housing benefits.

But sealing or expunging your criminal record does not free you from immigration consequences resulting from a criminal record.  A conviction–even if it’s been sealed or expunged–can still trigger your deportation.  And USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) can deny your green card or citizenship application because of a sealed or expunged criminal record.

And sealing or expunging also doesn’t free you from your obligation to disclose your criminal record on immigration forms.  If you apply for adjustment of status, citizenship or a visa at a U.S. consulate abroad, you will have to disclose your criminal record, even if the case was sealed by a Massachusetts state court judge. Failure to disclose a sealed criminal record in an immigration interview could be considered false testimony, which would give USCIS grounds for denying your immigration case.

An even more complicated problem is that USCIS generally will not approve your green card or citizenship application unless you provide court-certified copies of the final disposition for each criminal appearance. But if your case is sealed, no record will exist in the court’s file. So it is generally impossible to obtain a certified disposition of your case once it has been sealed. The only solution to this dilemma would be to go back to Massachusetts state court and ask the judge to unseal your case simply so that you can get a copy of the disposition–not a fun task.

If you’re considering sealing or expunging your criminal record, and you don’t have U.S. citizenship, think through your options carefully and consult with a competent, effective. immigration lawyer. If you have more questions about how a criminal case could affect your immigration options, call my Boston office today at (617) 722-0005 and schedule a consultation. I’d be happy to offer you my advice.

Boston Deportation Lawyer: Welcome to new home of Boston ICE Detention and Removal in Burlington, Massachusetts

Boston deportation or a removal hearing in Immigration Court often begins with a visit from U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE). For the unfamiliar, these are the guys that deport people.  The immigration raid in New Bedford, Massachusetts was a fine example of the handiwork of ICE. If you are a green card holder but have a criminal conviction, you may have to contend with ICE. Overstayed your student (F1) or visitor visa (B1/B2)? ICE is the immigration agency you should fear.

In late 2007, U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement moved its Office of Detention and Removal (DRO) from the 17th Floor of the JFK Federal Building in Boston, MA to a new facility in Burlington, Massachusetts.  Their new address is:

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
Office of Detention and Removal Operations (DRO)
10 New England Executive Park
Burlington, Massachusetts 01803
Phone number: 781-359-7500

If a friend or family member gets arrested in Massachusetts and taken into the custody of the Department of Homeland Security, ICE agents will most like transfer them to the immigration office in Burlington, MA for processing before being moved to an immigration detention center. Immigration bonds are now posted at the ICE Detention and Removal in Burlington, MA and not the JFK Federal Building in Boston.

Recently, with the New England Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyer Association (AILA), I toured the new ICE Detention and Removal facility in Burlington. Since my job as an immigration and deportation defense lawyer in Massachusetts is to defend immigrants who ICE has arrested, I was particularly interested to see the ICE office in Burlington first-hand.

My overall impression–ICE means business! For someone like me who fights to protect people from deportation, it was intimidating to realize that so many critical resources have been devoted to ICE’s new deportation facility. Its Burlington Massachusetts deportation office is tricked-out with latest state-of-the-art electronics and a “War Room” with 100 cubicles–all filled with immigration officers hard at work figuring out how to arrest and deport people. In terms of detention, ICE’s Burlington office has 4 cells, each holding about 25 immigration detainees.

Unless the Obama Administration shifts focus, I fully expect the surge in deportation cases through Massachusetts and New England to continue in 2009 and beyond.

On our tour, the ICE officers were generous hosts. I was impressed by their professionalism. We had an opportunity to meet with Bruce Chadbourne, the Director of ICE Field Office with supervisory responsibilties over Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Director Chadbourne met with us immigration lawyers and informally answered our questions at great length. I came away convinced that the ICE Burlington, MA office is committed to working cooperatively with the Massachusetts immigration attorneys to resolve any issues.

Rhode Island Immigration Lawyer — USCIS Rhode Island will move from Providence to Johnston in 2009

Immigration and citizenship lawyers will likely see another change for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS)–this time in Rhode Island.  The USCIS Providence Office is scheduled to move to a new facility in Johnston, Rhode Island in 2009.  I plan to post the address of this new Rhode Island immigration office on this immigration blog as soon as it becomes available.

As a Boston immigration lawyer, I am disappointed to see USCIS move immigration cases in Massachusetts from Boston to Lawrence, MA.  And I’m also sad to see USCIS leave Providence, the capital and largest city in Rhode Island, for a distant locale.  But there is good news for anyone in Rhode Island thinking of applying for US citizenship.  USCIS has requested the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island for permission to conduct naturalization oath ceremonies in the new Johnston Rhode Island immigration office.  With more citizenship ceremonies, applicants for citizenship in Rhode Island should get their citizenship applications processed more quickly.  Also, unlike the USCIS Lawrence MA Office, the new USCIS immigration office in Johnston, Rhode Island will at least offer parking.