Prepare Now for Upcoming Changes to ID Requirements for Domestic Air Travel

After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Congress passed the REAL ID Act to establish minimum security standards for state-issued IDs and driver’s licenses. The provisions of this act have been phased in over time but will be fully enforced beginning Oct. 1, 2020. For New York residents, this means that starting October 1, 2020, a REAL ID or higher form of identification will be required to fly domestically. Suitable identification includes an enhanced license or passport. Residents enrolled in travel programs, including TSA Precheck, NEXIS, Global Entry and SENTRI do not need a REAL ID. For New York residents who only hold a standard driver’s license, now is the time to act to ensure the ability to fly domestically and enter secure federal buildings and military bases once this change takes effect. An application for a REAL ID or enhanced license requires an in-person visit to a local Department of Motor Vehicles Office. For individuals who hold a valid New York driver’s license with a current address that is not up for renewal, a REAL ID can be obtained with the current license, proof of Social Security number (i.e. Social Security car or W-2), and two proofs of state residency […]
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Family 2A Category Visas to Become Current July 1, 2019

The U.S. State Department has announced that starting July 1, 2019, the filing for 2A spouses and unmarried children of lawful permanent residents will be current. This process has had a two-year backlog for many years. This announcement came from Charlie Oppenheim of the State Department at the Immigration Conference of the Federal Bar Association in Austin, Texas on May 17, 2019. Green card holders will be able to petition for their spouses and/or children starting on July 1, 2019. For green card holders whose spouse and/or children are lawfully present in the U.S., they should be ready to file their I-485 adjustment of status application on July 1. If a green card holder has yet to file an I-130 for his or her spouse and/or children, they can do so now or file the I-130 together with the I-485 application on July 1.  For spouses and/or children who are in the U.S. but do not have legal status, if they qualify under second 245i, they can adjust their status in the U.S. This also applies to spouses and/or children who are in removal proceedings and can request that the immigration judge expedite their next hearing so that they can […]
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Court Enjoins USCIS from Enforcement of Unlawful Presence Memo Impacting Students and Exchange Visitors

A Federal Judge has enjoined USCIS from enforcing a policy memorandum issued in August 2018 relative to the accrual of unlawful presence for nonimmigrant student or exchange visitors. The ruling found that the policy memorandum amounts to a “legislative rule” in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act because the government did not publish in the Federal Register or allow for a period of public comment on the rule.  A person can accumulate unlawful presence by (1) entering the U.S. without inspection; (2) overstaying their period of lawful status in the U.S.; or (3) violating their immigration status. Previously, for students and exchange visitors, accrual of unlawful presence began only when DHS or an immigration judge made an out-of-status determination and notified the individual of the same. Pursuant to the USCIS policy update, a determination of retroactive violation is made and can result in the denial of a green card application and bar the individual from entry for a period of three years (if the violation occurred before August 9, 2019) or 10 years (if after August 9, 2019). The Court’s decision in Guilford College v. USCIS prohibits the USCIS from enforcing the policy outlined in its August 2018 memorandum.  If […]
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The E-2 Visa and Real Property Investments

The E-2 investor visa was created to allow entrepreneurs from countries which maintain a trade and commerce treaty with the United States to establish new businesses in the U.S. through investment. Though E-2 visas are less often granted for investments in real property, there is a possibility that this type of investment may qualify for an E-2 visa if certain conditions are met. Here, we elaborate on these conditions. Before qualifying for an E-2 visa using a real property investment, a real property investor must first qualify for the E-2 visa through three requirements. Firstly, the entrepreneur must have invested, or be actively in the process of investing, a substantial amount of capital in a bona fide enterprise in the United States. The investment cannot be a relatively small amount of capital in a marginal enterprise initiated solely for the purpose of earning a living. The business must also be active, meaning that an investment that is earned through minimal activity and with little daily effort or upkeep, such as investments in stocks, would not qualify. Secondly, the investor must be seeking entry into the United States solely to develop and direct the enterprise. And thirdly, the investor must intend […]
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The ‘Buy American and Hire American’ Executive Order Two Years Later

On April 18, 2017, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order titled “Buy American and Hire American.” The President insisted that the Executive Order would favor American workers more so than the policies already in place. He also intended, among other things, for the “Buy American and Hire American” Executive Order to address his concerns with the H-1B visa program. The President thought that the H-1B lottery system should be modified so that H-1B visas would only go to the most skilled and highest-paid applicants. He also insisted that the H-1B system should not be allowed to replace American workers with foreign workers. The new Executive Order was meant to address these flaws in the H-1B program. Technically, the executive order did not create any laws or modify any that already existed. Instead, the Order set in place a policy for the maximization of the production, and sale of goods, products and materials produced in the United States. With an eye toward fulfilling the mandate of the “Buy American and Hire American” Executive Order, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has applied new rules, directives and adjustments to safeguard the jobs of American workers and to avert abuses of […]
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Restrictions on Travel to Cuba

United States citizens remain restricted from traveling to Cuba. For instance, traveling to Cuba solely for tourism or vacations remains strictly prohibited. However, there are exceptions in the government regulations. The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) allows travel to Cuba via either a general license or a specific license. In order to travel to Cuba on a general license, a U.S. citizen must fall into one of 12 categories of authorized travel enumerated in 31 CFR § 515.560. The categories include such activities as family visits, educational activities religious activities, and “Support for the Cuban People.” “Support for the Cuban People” is one of the most familiar and applicable general license categories for travel to Cuba. Travel to Cuba for the purpose of “Support for the Cuban People” is described and clarified by 31 CFR § 515.574, which requires that three criteria are met. First, the activities in Cuba must be carried out by human rights organizations, organizations designed to promote a transition to democracy, or organizations intending to strengthen civil society in Cuba. Second, each traveler must be engaged in activities that enhance contact with Cubans, support civil society or promote Cuban independence. Finally, the traveler’s schedule must […]
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The Modernization of the InfoPass System

In 2004, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) implemented InfoPass, a free online service providing applicants with the option to schedule an appointment with a USCIS immigration officer through the USCIS website. Since then, InfoPass has been modified, updated and refreshed many times. More recently, USCIS developed a pilot program to replace InfoPass entirely.  The pilot program, titled the Information Services Modernization Program, was introduced for testing in the Spring of 2018. USCIS was pleased with the results of the program and it became implemented nationwide in November of 2018. The Information Services Modernization Program will ultimately replace the traditional InfoPass system entirely by September of 2019. Based on surveys and other data, USCIS determined that most people who made in-person information service appointments through InfoPass could have received the same information by calling the USCIS Contact Center or checking the USCIS website. The new system is intended to streamline information services by centralizing case status inquiries and information resources in the USCIS Contact Center. There, applicants can receive immediate assistance through online messaging and live phone-based support. By ending InfoPass and redirecting applicants to the Contact Center, USCIS hopes to focus more support on those applicants facing emergency […]
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