Featured Clients of the Month: Ted & Austhin

Congratulations to our clients, Ted and Austhin, who recently completed the marriage-based green card process and were successfully approved! Ted is a U.S. citizen and Austhin is a citizen of Indonesia. Austhin recently received her ten-year green card with the help of our firm after filing an approved Form I-130 and attending an immigrant visa interview in Jakarta, Indonesia with the U.S. Embassy. 

Ted met his wife, Austhin, in Jakarta where he was volunteering as an English instructor in 2012. Austhin was a teacher at the local school. The two immediately hit it off and began dating. However, Ted had to return to the U.S. in August of 2012 in order to continue pursuing his graduate degree. In the meantime, Ted and Austhin had a long-distance relationship and continued to keep in touch. 

Upon completion of his degree in the U.S., Ted moved to Indonesia to be with Austhin. The couple enjoyed their life together in Indonesia until Austhin was granted a scholarship at Northern Arizona University. Austhin went to study in Arizona while Ted accepted a job in Cincinnati, but the couple continued their long-distance relationship in the meantime. In 2017, Ted and Austhin decided they could not be without each other any longer and they tied the knot. Their wedding was in Indonesia, where they continued to live and teach thereafter. 

Last year, the couple contacted Berardi Immigration Law to help Austhin obtain a green card so that they could move back to the United States to enjoy married life together. The couple was concerned about the process and communication logistics since they were residing in Indonesia, but our experienced team of immigration lawyers and staff made their process painless. Ted stated, “We felt your firm helped to vastly reduce the anxiety of the entire process and allowed us to sleep easy.” The couple was grateful for our prompt responses and detailed explanations. Our team was there each step of the way.  

Applying for a marriage-based green card, especially from abroad, can be a very stressful process. Clients want to work with a team they trust. Berardi Immigration Law is proud to have that trust with our clients, something that Austhin and Ted can attest to, “Berardi was very responsive to our questions and answered them promptly. We felt comfortable to share any questions or concerns with [their] team.” 

Last month, Austhin entered the United States as a Legal Permanent Resident and the couple is delighted to begin this new chapter of their lives. “We’re excited to be able to start a family and finally be able to have a permanent place to live,” says Ted, and Berardi Immigration Law team wishes them all the best! 

If you are interested in applying for a green card, or if you have any questions or concerns about green cards, please do not hesitate to contact Berardi Immigration Law to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today!

Understanding OPT Cap-Gap

The H-1B visa allows employers to temporarily employ a foreign national, who possesses at least a bachelor’s degree, in a specialty occupation. The H-1B employment period generally begins on October 1, the start of the federal government’s fiscal year. 

There are special rules that act to automatically extend the US employment eligibility of qualified F-1 foreign student visa holders beyond the period initially authorized. The rule that relates to F-1 visa holders seeking to change to H-1B work visa status is referred to as “cap-gap.” This is because it is intended to fill the gap between the date the optional practical training (OPT) period would otherwise expire and the date that the new H-1B employment authorization starts.

The 60-day grace period may not be enough to cover the “cap-gap” period until H-1B status begins. However, USCIS offers an OPT cap-gap extension if three conditions are met:

  • An employer timely files a Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, with USCIS requesting a change of the student’s status to H-1B. (Exception: Petitions requesting consular processing which do not qualify); 
  • The H-1B petition asks for an October 1 start date; and 
  • The student’s status, including any applicable grace period, ends between April and September 30.

Situations when the OPT cap-gap protection is activated: 

  • The student’s employment authorization automatically extends to June 1, if an H-1B petition on behalf of the student has been filed with USCIS but not yet receipted. This student may request an updated Form I-20 to serve as proof of legal status.
  • The student’s employment authorization automatically extends to September 30, while the H-1B is pending with USCIS for processing. This student may obtain an updated Form I-20 from the international students’ office.

If the F-1 student’s OPT has already expired and the H-1B petition is not selected or denied, the student has 60 days to depart the U.S. or take other steps to maintain lawful status. 

Employers should take careful note that they are responsible for verifying the employment authorization for all employees in the U.S. and failure to do so may result in monetary penalties. 

If you are interested in learning more about the H-1B visa or have questions on F-1 status and OPT, be sure to contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today!

Not Selected in the H-1B Lottery? Explore Your Other Global Options

With H-1B cap season winding down, employers will soon begin to receive returned petitions that were not selected in the lottery. Employees who have other valid status, such as F-1 OPT or L-1, can remain in the United States and keep working so that their employer may try again for the lottery next year.

However, for other employees whose only option was the H-1B lottery, their employers may need to make other plans. One of the following global options may be a good fit: 

  • Return home & work remotely: The employee could return to their home country and work from home remotely. This may have labor law, digital security, and tax implications for U.S. employers, but an employee who is living in their country of citizenship can work for any employer, anywhere in the world.  While using the employee’s services remotely might be not be ideal, it can be a good temporary solution while trying to figure out other ways of bringing this employee to join the company in the U.S. 
  • Work in other countries: The employee may be eligible to work in other countries such as Canada, the UK or Mexico. A US company with a Canadian branch can use Intra-Company Transfer visa (ICT) to transfer its current employee to Canada if this worker meets one year of employment with the US company in a managerial or specialized knowledge position. The UK version of the Canadian ICT permit or U.S. L-1B visa is ideal for citizens of the EU and does not require that an employee has specialized knowledge. Mexico also offers a Temporary Resident Process for foreign employees who remain on non-Mexico company payroll. Ireland, the Netherlands, or Singapore may also be feasible options, depending on the company and the employee.  

If you are interested in exploring any of these options, particularly options for working in Canada, be sure to contact Berardi Immigration Law today! We have a team of Canadian attorneys who can assist. 

USCIS Announces Expansion of Digital FOIA System

FOIA permits any person to request access to federal agency records. FOIA requires federal agencies to disclose any information requested unless it falls under one of nine exemptions. Beginning June 25, 2019, USCIS began accepting FOIA requests online through (FOIA) Immigration Records System (FIRST) in order to improve the process, reduce errors and save time.  FIRST allows requesters to submit and track FOIA status, receive email notifications, and receive documents digitally. In order to submit a FOIA request online, the requester must have a USCIS online account.

FIRST is a part of USCIS’s attempt to transfer the nation’s immigration system away from paper-based services to digital transactions. Before, FOIA requests were submitted via mail, fax or email and the response was provided on a disc. Now, FIRST offers a fully electronic service: online submission and online receipt of requested records. This should help to reduce costs and save time.

If you are interested in immigrating to the United States, be sure to contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today!

Fun Facts & Information on Naturalization

Here at Berardi Immigration Law, we are proud to help our clients make their American dreams a reality! What better way to celebrate the upcoming Fourth of July holiday than to take a look at some interesting facts on naturalization. Naturalization is the process through which a green card holder in the United States can become a U.S. citizen. 

Fun facts on naturalization:

  • During the last decade, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) welcomed more than 7.4 million naturalized citizens. 
  • In fiscal year 2018, over 757,000 people were naturalized.
  • Since 2009, USCIS welcomed approximately 620,000 to 780,000 citizens each year during naturalization ceremonies across the United States and around the world.
  • In fiscal year 2018, 73 percent of all naturalized citizens resided in 10 states (in descending order): California, Florida, New York, Texas, New Jersey, Illinois, Massachusetts, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Washington.
  • In fiscal year 2018, the leading metropolitan areas of residence for naturalization applicants were New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA (15 percent), Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA (7.8 percent), and Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL (7.3 percent).
  • In fiscal year 2018, the top countries of origin for naturalization were in the following descending order:  Mexico, India, Philippines, Cuba, and People’s Republic of China.

To apply for naturalization, an immigrant must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  1. Be at least 18 years of age;
  2. Be a lawful permanent resident (green card holder);
  3. Have resided in the United States as a lawful permanent resident (LPR) for at least five years;
  4. Have been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months;
  5. Be a person of good moral character;
  6. Be able to speak, read, write and understand the English language;
  7. Have knowledge of U.S. government and history;
  8. Demonstrate attachment to the principles of the Constitution and well disposition to the good order and happiness of the United States; and,
  9. Be willing and able to take the Oath of Allegiance.

There are a few exemptions for members of the military and spouses of U.S. citizens:

  1. If an LPR is married to a U.S. citizen for at least three years, this LPR can apply for U.S. citizenship based on three years of marriage and permanent residence;
  2. If an LPR is a spouse of a U.S. citizen stationed abroad, this LPR may not be required to meet any residence or physical presence requirement;
  3. Members of the military who served for at least one year, at any time, and apply for naturalization within a certain time after their military service, are also exempt from the general residence and physical presence requirement, may apply even if they are under age of 18, and may apply even if they have not been admitted as LPRs.

If you would like to learn more about the naturalization process or need assistance in becoming a citizen of the United States, be sure to contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today!

Presidential Memorandum on Enforcing the Legal Responsibilities of Sponsors of Aliens

On May 23, 2019, the President issued a Presidential Memorandum on Enforcing the Legal Responsibilities of Sponsors of Aliens. The Administration is obligated to enforce existing immigration laws and protect the American taxpayer. According to this memorandum, all federal agencies must update and issue guidance and regulations to comply with current law and to ensure that ineligible immigrants do not receive federal means-tested benefits.

Most family-based and some employment-based immigrants must submit Form I-864, Affidavit of Support when they apply for status as a lawful permanent resident. The individual signing the affidavit of support, whether the sponsor or joint sponsor, agrees to accept legal responsibility for financially supporting the intending immigrant. 

Over the next several months, federal agencies will develop and implement guidance related to the president memorandum to ensure that agencies enforce these requirements. 

Specifically, USCIS is now required to remind a sponsor at the adjustment of status interview that the Form I-864 Affidavit of Support is a legally enforceable contract. The sponsor needs to understand and accept that by signing this contract he or she agrees to accept legal responsibility for financial support of the beneficiary. If the beneficiary collects any public benefits, the sponsor (or co-sponsor) will be required to reimburse any money received by this immigrant. 

If you have questions on the Affidavit of Support or other green card related questions, be sure to contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today!

Client of the Month: Aaron Hakim

Aaron Hakim has been a client of Berardi Immigration Law since 2014. As a Canadian citizen, we have successfully procured TN status for Mr. Hakim on two occasions now. But earlier this year, Mr. Hakim approached our firm to secure a more permanent U.S. immigration benefit, a green card.

As an expert in Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology, Economics, and Medicine, Mr. Hakim has acquired extraordinary ability and has earned industry awards for his accomplishments in research and science. He has also had many of his articles published in various industry publications throughout the course of his career. This made him a clear fit for the EB-1A green card category.

Additionally, Mr. Hakim is a graduate of Yale University where he received dual Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Economics and Molecular Biology and is currently working towards his Doctor of Medicine degree. While completing his undergraduate and graduate degrees, Mr. Hakim was working for a U.S. company specializing in public market investments in small capitalization biotechnology companies.

Even given Mr. Hakim’s impressive credentials, the green card process can be very challenging, especially for extraordinary ability applicants. Despite the challenge of a more difficult adjudication environment, our experienced team was able to build a strong winning case and obtain a green card for Mr. Hakim.

Here at Berardi Immigration Law, we understand the importance of keeping our clients informed throughout each step of the process, updating them on the status of their case, and most importantly, paying close attention to the details of each case. Mr. Hakim can attest to this firsthand, “I have been impressed by the level of attention to detail and I am grateful that I was kept in the loop during every stage of the submission and review process. The team is very knowledgeable about navigating a complex and constantly changing landscape.”

Mr. Hakim is enjoying his new green card status, which has enabled him to work at the intersection of biotechnology and finance as a Vice President at a life sciences investment fund in Greenwich, CT. We are incredibly happy that we were able to assist Mr. Hakim on this immigration journey and we appreciate his kind words, “I would work with the same team again without hesitation, and I will recommend the firm to colleagues without reservation.”

If you are interested in applying for a green card, or if you have any questions or concerns about green cards, please do not hesitate to contact Berardi Immigration Law to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today!