California first state to pass legislation to expedite U Visa Certifications

Wednesday, February 10, 2016 | Last Updated: December 22, 2015
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Background
Most illegal immigrants come to the United States to escape a life of poverty and violence. Unfortunately, once they are here they fail to report even the most heinous crimes committed against them for fear of being deported. This fear makes illegal immigrants particularly vulnerable to victimization. In October of 2000, congress created the U nonimmigrant visa with the passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act and the Battered Immigrant Women’s Protection Act. The U visa was intended to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute crimes, while also protecting those victims who are so vulnerable due to their legal status.

The Requirements
In order to qualify for U nonimmigrant status an immigrant must meet certain requirements:

  • she must be the victim of a qualifying criminal activity: domestic violence, sexual assault and rape are amongst the qualified crimes;
  • the immigrant must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse;
  • she must possess information about the criminal activity;
  • the crime must have occurred in the United States or violate U.S. laws;
  • the immigrant must be helpful to law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the crime

The first obstacle: Proving helpfulness to law enforcement
After having gone through the traumatizing experience of being victimized and providing assistance in the investigation of the crime; a victim must then obtain law enforcement certification—certifying that in fact she was helpful in the investigation.
One of the biggest obstacles in obtaining a U visa is not necessarily proving helpfulness to law enforcement but getting certification of that helpfulness. A certifying agency, such as a police department, sheriff’s office, a judge or district attorney must sign Form I-918, Supplement B, U nonimmigrant Status Certification. The purpose of this certification is to testify that the immigrant has been helpful or is likely to be helpful in the investigation of the criminal activity. The victim can submit form I-918 to the certifying agency to request certification. Even if the immigrant meets all the other requirements to obtain a U visa, without this signed certification she unable to receive the benefit.

Regrettably, an agency’s decision to sign a certification is entirely discretionary. Neither the Department of Homeland Security nor other federal agencies have authority to request or demand certification. Thus, until now, qualified victims have been at the mercy of the designated certifying agency —sometimes waiting over a year for a signature and often being denied for arbitrary reasons. Current processing times for Stockton are particularly slow, taking up to seven months for a response; while their denial rate is unusually high. Sacramento’s current processing time, for both the police and sheriff’s department, is also fairly slow taking anywhere from 4-6 months. Appealing a denial in Stockton and Sacramento is nearly impossible as officers are difficult to reach and unresponsive.

Certain law enforcement agencies simply refuse to sign any certifications at all, while others create impossible requirements completely unrelated to whether the victim was helpful. This unpredictability is in essence defeating the purpose of the U visa and keeping qualified immigrants from receiving the benefits they were intended to get.

October 2015: Governor Jerry Brown signs Bill SB 647- Victims of Crimes: Nonimmigrant Status
On October 9, 2015, Governor Jerry brown signed Bill SB 647- Victims of Crimes: Nonimmigrant Status, designed to help qualified victims obtain a certification from law enforcement. Where there is a qualified crime, the bill requires law enforcement and other designated agencies to fill out and sign the certification request within 90 days, unless they can prove the victim was uncooperative. If the victim is in deportation proceedings the time limit is only 14 days. The bill further establishes a rebuttable presumption that victims who have

“not refused or failed to provide information and assistance reasonably requested by law enforcement”

have met the helpfulness requirement for certification.
Furthermore, certifying agencies will be held accountable for reporting to the legislation annually, the number of victims requesting certification, the number of those certifications that were signed, and the number that were denied. Expectantly, this accountability requirement will keep agencies from arbitrarily denying certifications to qualified victims.
This bill will become effective January 1, 2016 and will help many qualified victims of crimes obtain certifications and receive the benefits of the U visa nonimmigrant status. Optimistically, we can expect other states to soon follow California and enact their own legislation to assist qualified victims obtain certifications.

Author: Yesenia Rosas

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J Waiver Hardship Approval Based on U.S. Citizen Child

Wednesday, February 10, 2016 | Last Updated: November 30, 2015
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A Success Story from the Ranchod Law Group

A J Hardship Waiver Approval for a Middle East Client

Filed: May 26, 2015
Approved: November 9, 2015
Client and his family are from a Middle Eastern country. Client entered the U.S. on a J visa with his wife on a J-2 visa. While in the U.S. the couple had their first child. The child is now a healthy well adjusted preschool age child and the client did not want to return to his home country. We focused our arguments on conditions in the home country including safety issues, the poor educational system, and the unavailability of comparable medical care. Also, in his home country client would barely be getting by financially but here in the U.S. client commanded a very good salary. Our firm worked very hard researching and writing the legal brief to present the very best case possible. Now client can continue his career with his family in the U.S.

Read more of our success stories on J Visas here.

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J 1 Visa Waiver Customer Review

Wednesday, February 10, 2016 | Last Updated: November 16, 2015
by Alex Achille

The Ranchod Law Group has a great team. They helped me get a J-1 visa waiver, which is usually a complicated and long process. They walked me through every step, and with their help I was able to get a positive decision in a record time. Also, throughout the entire process Melissa, and Kaushik were very open and transparent about everything, which helped me gain an understanding of how these things work, which I appreciate. Thanks to Ranchod Law Group I was able to stay in the US with my family, and be there for the birth of my first daughter. I will forever be thankful for that.

– Michael S

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Approval of Another Hardship Based J Waiver

Wednesday, February 10, 2016 | Last Updated: November 17, 2015
by Alex Achille

Approval of a Hardship Based J Waiver
Filed: April 9, 2015
Approved: October 15, 2015

Client was out of status by the time she came to our office for help with her j waiver. Client is married to a U.S. Citizen and had just given birth to the couple’s first child. We were able to successfully argue hardship because client’s husband could not practice his profession abroad and client’s husband owns a home in the U.S. and leaving his job in the U.S. would mean defaulting on his financial responsibilities. Also, client’s husband could not afford to care for his infant while his wife completed her home residency requirement abroad and client’s home country, for many reasons, was not a good a safe place for their child. We worked extensively to argue each aspect of the case and were pleased to see the positive decision.

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The American Dream, 4th of July and Immigration Law

Wednesday, February 10, 2016 | Last Updated: July 25, 2015
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The Fourth of July (or Independence Day), may have come and gone, but many people are still celebrating the opportunities they have found in the United States. They are celebrating the result of all the hard work they put in, and the long wait they had to endure before being granted a visa, or residency, or even naturalization. For those who immigrated to America, July means not only means celebrating freedom and independence but it’s also a month to celebrate the American Dream, and this month, we’re reflecting on that dream.

For each of us, the American Dream means something a little different. There are people who want to live happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives. Others who want the best education and a job to match. There are those who want to make a difference in their communities, and help others achieve their own dreams. For others still, they want to live in an amazing home, drive a fast car, and live a life they could never have anywhere else. No matter what your dreams are, they all come back to pursuing opportunities that allow us to find what makes us happy.

You may have heard the American Dream has changed. That it isn’t what it used to be or that it’s a myth. The notion of the American Dream has been around for hundreds of years. The idea alone is what brought millions of people to the United States from all over the world — and continues to do so today. The American Dream has changed over time, but from watching our clients and the experiences of so many people, I can tell you the American Dream is real, and people are living it every day.

Those who immigrate to the United States know there is opportunity for them here. If there wasn’t, they would have gone elsewhere. Immigrants are still coming to the U.S., taking risks, leaving loved ones behind, building businesses, practicing medicine, and even creating jobs. Not only are they keeping the American Dream alive for themselves, they are keeping it alive for everyone else who has yet to start the journey.

Immigrants are one of the cornerstones of the American Dream

They helped define it years ago, and through their actions, they have kept it strong. Hard work and determination are two attributes that define so many of our clients. You can even say hard work and determination are part of the American Dream.

Achieving the American Dream is not easy. We say it all the time. Immigrating to the U.S. takes time and resolve. But those who overcome those challenges are often awarded with a certain visa, residency, or naturalization. Their lives change and even transformed for the better.

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I751 Removal of Conditions When the Marriage Has Ended

Wednesday, February 10, 2016 | Last Updated: July 17, 2015
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Form I-751

Form I-751: Petition to remove conditions on residence - Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

USCIS Form I-751


The is an additional safe-guard that USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) uses to make sure that a marriage is before approval for a permanent green card. If you obtained your through marriage and had been married for less than two years when you received your green card you will have to submit an application for removal of conditions, . This allows you to obtain your “permanent” green card which is valid for ten years. For those whose marriage has since ended, this can be a confusing process. Some are not sure whether they can still file for removal of conditions.

This blog post explains why you should still file for removal of conditions and how to go about it even after your marriage has terminated.

Why You Still Need to File for Removal of the Conditions:
Even when a marriage has terminated you still must file for the removal of conditions before the expiration date written on the card. If you do not file, you will automatically lose your status on the expiration date and become removable from the U.S. Because these consequences are so severe, it is very important to file the petition before the expiration date.

How to Apply for Removal of Conditions:
Normally, when you are still married, you and your petitioner-spouse apply for the jointly, meaning that you both sign it and appear together for an interview. However, there are several circumstances where USCIS allows you to apply for a waiver of the “joint filing requirement”. One of the circumstances is where the marriage was bona fide but then later was terminated either by divorce or annulment. In this case, you will need to submit to USCIS a certified copy of the divorce judgment and or annulment. In addition, USCIS will need to see bona fides of your marriage up to the point of separation. In other words, just because the marriage may have ended, USCIS still needs to be satisfied that the marriage was still real and entered into in good faith.

divorce or an annulment?:
Some of our clients that are separating ask us whether to seek a divorce or an annulment, and whether or not it makes a difference. Although we are not divorce attorneys, for the purposes of waiving the joint filing requirement, USCIS accepts termination of a marriage by either divorce or annulment and they do not appear to be treated differently. Throughout the instructions to the Form I-751 it indicates that a conditional resident may apply for a waiver when the marriage was “terminated due to divorce or annulment”, indicating that either is acceptable.

What if the Divorce or Annulment is Not Yet Final?:
USCIS has indicated that if the divorce or annulment is not yet final, a Request for Evidence (RFE) may be issued asking for a copy of the final divorce judgment or annulment and a written statement asking to have the petition treated as a waiver of the joint filing requirement. The RFE will generally allow a response within 87 days. If the divorce or annulment becomes final during the response time then USCIS will evaluate the petition.

As always, we recommend submitting ample evidence that your marriage was real for however long it lasted. Your marriage ending should not be an obstacle to prevent you from obtaining your permanent green card.

This blog entry is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. This blog is for educational purposes only. Remember that each case is unique. If you have questions about your own immigration case, please contact our Sacramento or Santa Clara office at (916) 613-3553 or info@ranchodlaw.com to schedule a consultation.

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Success Story: Approval of I-601A for Client Brought to U.S. as a Child

Wednesday, February 10, 2016 | Last Updated: June 28, 2015
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Case presented to USCIS on: January 27, 2015
RFE Issued: April 10, 2015
Responded to RFE on: May 8, 2015
Approved: June 3, 2015

Client was brought into the U.S. by his parents at the age of 2. He didn’t even realize or understand he lacked status in the U.S. until he was in high school. While in high school, he met his wife and the couple had a child and later married. We argued client’s wife would suffer if the was denied. requested additional evidence to support the case and we submitted additional statements on client and his wife’s behalf along with some additional paperwork. The case was approved less than one month after we responded to the Request For Evidence and the client and his wife are delighted client can finally work and drive legally!

Read more success stories now!

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