2013 Comprehensive Immigration Reform details

Who is eligible for Obama Amnesty?
  1. Strong ties to the United States by living and working here:  The exact timing is not yet clear but anyone who has lived in the US for several years will be eligible. The alien will also need to provide proof for this period required by submitting valid documents. 
  2. Clean background:  It is not clear how many misdemeanors will be allowed but I expect maybe three at the most (felons will not be allowed under any circumstances and will be deported). 
  3. Pay fine:  The exact amount will be announced later but you will be required to pay a one-time cash penalty.
  4. Pay back taxes:  The great news is that if you worked illegally or used a fake Social Security number but were not caught and convicted, you will be forgiven (that is why it is an amnesty).  However, if you did not file taxes on your income, you will need to pay income taxes before being approved, and it is likely that Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will levy a fine and/or interest.
  5. Learn English and Civics along the line for naturalization:   You will need to demonstrate proficiency in English reading, writing, and speaking through an in-person test in front of an officer of the USCIS.

How will the legalizing process work?

When USCIS starts to process the applications, you will need to register with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) by getting fingerprinted (biometrics) and providing background information.  Obviously you will be required to complete a bunch of forms along with paying a fine and back taxes.  If approved, you will be given a temporary/probationary legal status that will enable you to work and live in the United States of America.  You will also be able to travel freely outside the United States, either like a green card holder or with advanced parole.

After the USCIS decides to issue green cards to people like you, depending on your native country, you will wait for availability of an immigrant visa.  At that point, you will need to go through a more thorough background check, demonstrate work history of holding jobs, evidence of paying taxes regularly, and learn English/Civics to finally get a permanent residency or green card.

Citizenship will come after you have been a green card holder for five years (three years if you married to an American citizen and the requirements would be lenient for those who have served in the Military), you can apply for naturalization and receive a US passport.  A slightly less restrictive process will be used for DREAMers and agricultural workers but details are yet to be released.

Legal immigrant using false Social Security number to hide criminal record

Tony writes, "My brother has legal status and has his own Social Security card.  He also has a valid driver's license.  He applied for a job and made up a SSN to hide his conviction. Can he get in trouble or can the employer have him arrested?  Is that a crime or could he be in trouble?  He really wants to work.  Please help."

Legal immigrants must use their valid Social Security numbers to work:  If he was convicted, served his time, and is now free, he cannot be arrested for that crime again.  However, providing a false Social Security number and lying on Form I-9 when he starts working are criminal actions for which he can be prosecuted and in the future his application for, say citizenship, can be jeopardized, but if he get the job and the employer does not find out that his SSN is fake, he can keep working but would not be able to file taxes legitimately or claim a refund or if does that it will all be quite messy.  If the employer finds out that he lied about his Social Security number (most likely if the employer does a background check on him chances are that inconsistent information would show up right away and the would doubt who he says he is), he might just fire him or call Immigration and report him as an illegal alien.  In case ICE follows up on him (it seems that his previous crime was not a felony because then he would have been deported) nothing much might happen but it will get into his immigration file that he was working with a false SS# and that can come to bite him later.

Any abuse of SSN is a serious crime:  As you are well aware he will be breaking the law if he did so and I cannot recommend you or anyone do that.  It is indeed true that millions of illegal immigrants do that everyday and don't get caught but that does not make it right.  The difference in this case is that he is not illegal and has a lot to lose because he is in the US legally (I am assuming that one day he would like to file for citizenship).  Lying on a job application is a felony and if he gets caught he will just make things worse for him.   A drivers license does not prove anything; it only allows you to drive a car and can be used as an ID.  When applying for a job, he will either have to declare himself to be a US citizen or if he declares himself to be legal immigrant he will need to provide a copy of his immigration status.  Maybe a small business will not check these things thoroughly but that would still be breaking the law.

American provides an opportunity to live the right life:  The right thing for him to do is to find work in which his conviction will not disqualify him.  That way he will go to sleep every night that he is doing the right thing and trying to start a new life the right way.  Breaking the law yet again only perpetuates a cycle of lawbreaking and as his supportive brother you should help him end this cycle and put him on a path of living a good life.

Expired work permit during pending green card application

Karl writes, "My mother, a United States citizen, has filed a permanent residence sponsorship application for me.  Due to mailing address problems some important notifications were lost and my application has been delayed.  In the meantime, my work permit expired.  Now my employer has refused to pay me for the work I did and is saying that since my work permit expired a few months ago I had been working with them illegally for three months. He even threatened to report me to ICE that I was working illegally. Have I committed any crimes?  Please I need your advice."

Working without authorization is a serious crime and it not only puts you in trouble but also the employer because an employer must make sure that they only hire and employ legal workers at all times.  As an immigrant with a time-limited employment authorization, it was your duty to renew your work permit on time and let the employer know when it expired.  Since you did not do so, the employer can clearly accuse of hiding facts from them and misleading them, things that employees are expected to do and depending on the papers you signed when you joined the company it was probably even a requirement between you and your employer. 

You could, of course, still sue the employer and get into a long and complex legal case to get back wages but considering that you are not truly "legal" it will just mess up things for you.  So the best thing will be NOT to work any more until you either get your green card or at least have a valid work permit.  Then just wait for the permits to arrive and start a new life the right way in America.  In the meantime leave your employer alone and do not bother them.  That way, it will just be that both you and your employer would let a genuine mistake disappear.

Completed sample Form I485 example for adjustment of status

The I-485 is a form that USCIS (formerly INS) requires you to complete if you want to become a permanent resident in the United States of America (commonly referred to as a green card holder).  You may be required to adjust other forms as well depending on your individual situation, but this is a common form to adjust your status even if it is not permanent.  So get your immigration file and complete this form online, save often on your hard drive, and then simply print it on white paper.  Always sign in black ink in the designated box.

Part 1. Information About You

Most of the boxes are simple and straightforward.  Pay close attention to the Social Security number, I-94# and A#.  Also copy the exact date of last arrival, expiration date, and and current USCIS status from your I-94 card and the passport.  Now, if you took a road trip to Canada or Mexico or crossed by foot from either of these two countries, or maybe went on a cruise, if the US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officer did not stamp your passport and you never completed a new I94 form (if you enter Mexico or Canada, no one will take your I-94), then you must enter the actual date and not the one on the card that you have.  Simply attach a separate sheet of paper of all the trips that you have taken along with date of departure, destination, date of entry, and place of entry.  This is very common and there is nothing to fear.

Part 2.  Application Type

Check one box depending on your situation.  I am expecting that most likely you will need to pick from a to do choices because the rest of them are primarily related to Cubans.  Remember that whatever box you check, you will need to have evidence of that category.

Part 3.  Processing Information

A. I will only talk about the ones that are tricky.  For occupation, if you do not work, write unemployed or homemaker or retired.  Or, write something like nurse, engineer, etc.  Again, as I said above, write down the place of last entry into the US, the status (now if you entered in one status and took short trips for vacation, your status does not change; so if you had a multiple entry H1B visa, you can go in and out as many times as you want, but your status will always be the same and that is what you should write here).

You must have been inspected by a US immigration officer and you should check Yes.  The only ones who will check No are those aliens who crossed the border illegally and never formally interacted with an officer.  Inspection by a United States Immigration Officer means that you arrived at a check point on a border crossing or airport, completed the forms, presented them with a passport to an agent, and after the officer approved your entry, you entered the country.

If you entered the United States legally, some of you will have a nonimmigrant visa.  Those of you who entered from one of the visa waiver country may not have a visa in their passport and can leave this blank.  If you have a visa, enter the embassy or consulate name from the visa page itself, along with the number and date.

Let us hope that this is your first time adjusting your status and you will answer No.  If you have answered yes, write down why your application was rejected and provide date and place.  People in this situation should complete their application with an attorney because it is clear that your case is complicated.

B.  This is really simple as well and is basically information about your family.

C.  This is a place to tell the USCIS about your military background.  Other than that, if you have played tennis in a club, you do not have to mention it, nor do you have to mention a religious service that you attend, but if you are/were a paying member of an organization, then you must list it here.  For example, if you were the treasurer of World Club Against Poverty, this is the place to list it.

Questions 1 to 18.  Read all the questions and ask yourself if the 100% accurate answer to all of them is No.  If the answer to any one of them is Yes, I encourage you to consult an attorney, because if it is not handled professionally, your application maybe in jeopardy.  If the answer is Yes, it does not mean that your application will be definitely denied, but you must provide all the evidence.  People who have broken any laws, have interacted with police/courts etc., have been in deportation proceedings, entered the United States illegally, stolen identities, worked without authorization, used fake papers like green card/Social Security number/driver's license/passport/visa, entered the US using another person's visa or passport, arrested from shoplifting, DUI, illegal drugs, domestic violence, guns, etc. will need to exercise extreme caution in completing this part, preferably with competent legal help.  DO NOT think even for a moment that you can get away with lying or hiding any facts because you never know what the Government has on file about you.  That is why it is absolutely critical to be honest and truthful because lying can not only result in rejection of the application, you maybe prosecuted and deported.

Part 4.  Accommodation For Individuals With Disabilities and/or Impairments

Check the right box and indicate your need.  This is relevant if you are called for an in-person interview for immigration purposes.

Part 5. Signature

You must read and understand what is written above the signature box.  Notice that in addition to committing to letting USCIS know your correct address at all times and registering for Selective Service (if applicable), more importantly, you are declaring that you are telling the whole truth and if anything in the I485 form is found to be inaccurate, you will be deemed to have committed perjury, a serious offense in the United States.  You are also allowing the USCIS to collect whatever information it wants from anyone, anywhere.  In other words, the USCIS can not only access information about you in the United States but also elsewhere, and not just that in government files and databases but also in private databases like those of banks and universities.  If you feel confident that you are all clear, then sign your name, print your full name, enter the date and a day time phone number which either you will answer or it has voicemail or someone responsible will take messages for you.

What will happen to illegal immigrants unsuccesful in legalizing?

Undocumented immigrants are eagerly waiting for comprehensive immigration reform that will finally end their wait for legalization.  These aspiring Americans are planning on make their roots even deeper but apart from all the challenges of passing an immigration overhaul, the biggest challenge will be how to accommodate as many illegal immigrants as possible.  Needless to say that individuals who have committed serious crimes (the actual breakup of what criminal actions will disqualify you) are totally going to be left out, but there will be many others who will not be able to take advantage of the amnesty.  The reasons will be many, but some are more straightforward like not having the documentation that the USCIS will demand but other reasons could be more complicated depending on how you entered the United States, how you lived your life, and if something goes wrong during the approval process.


So what will happen to all those unauthorized immigrants who are unable to adjust their status in the United States?   Well, so far it has been relatively easy for illegal immigrants to live in the US and that is what explains the massive number of illegal aliens who live, study, and work.  Once they fail to take advantage of legalization options, many of might be able to go on with their lives the way they have so far, but there are several changes that have either already been made or are being made that will make their lives in the United States difficult on even impossible, forcing them to self-deport, in case they are not forcibly deported.

How can that be?   A recent Migration Policy Institute report has found that since the terrorist attacks of September 2011, the government has collected enormous data on residents in the USA.  Obviously the improvement in technology has been very helpful but so has been the expenditure on immigration enforcement.  Just during 2012, a whopping $18 billion was spent by the Obama Administration and that is why millions of unauthorized aliens were deported.  While many immigrants are still able to cross the border illegally, it has become so much harder and even if we account for the lack of jobs, the numbers are way down.  There are still weaknesses in the system that the illegal immigrants maybe able to exploit like the reluctance of employers to use eVerify database to confirm that an employee is authorized to work legally in the United States and the government still does not track if visitors and those with non-immigrant visas leave once their visas expire. But despite these weaknesses in the system, those of you who are unable to get a legal status will find it much harder to work and live and will need to consider options like voluntarily leaving to your home country to start a new life using all the wonderful things you have learned during your time here.

Impact of Obama Amnesty and Comprehensive Immigration Reform on undocumented aliens ineligible for legalization

It is awesome that illegal immigrants under Obama Amnesty will be able to get a green card eventually acquire American citizenship.   But will every illegal in America be able to become legal?  Well, if you have a serious criminal past, then you are out.  Also there will be many others who will not be able to legalize themselves.  For example, it will cost thousands of dollars in application fees, attorney bills, penalties, and back taxes, that many immigrants will not be able to afford it.  Other aliens may be unable to provide satisfactory documentation for the application.  If you entered the United States with a fake passport or visa or committed fraud, you cannot be legalized.  In order to become a permanent resident, you will need to have some level of fluency in the English language.  A good work record will also be needed. 

Use of Everify will make it nearly impossible to find work illegally.  ICE will easily find people who will be without papers because most people will be documented.  The net result is that illegals who cannot take advantage of the Obama amnesty will find that they have to simply self-deport.

Legalize illegal family member of American citizen

Certain family members (spouse, minor children, parents are the highest priority and have no waiting periods or annual limits) of a United States citizen have a right to live legally in the United States.  The process is really simple and fast if the family member is overseas or if she or he entered the United States legally, and even better, if she or he is still not out of status.  If the family member is in the United States and entered the country illegally or has been out of status for some time, the process can be complex and slow.  In addition to that the individual can be barred from entering the USA for many years, some times as many as 10 years, when he or she returns to the native country for processing of a green card at the US embassy or consulate.

Due to the ban on entering the US for years, most US citizens continue to live with an illegal spouse rather than do the paperwork for legalization.  That is why a lot of the undocumented immigrants in the United States are still illegal in the country, even though they meet all the criteria for changing their status to get permanent residency.  In addition to not deporting illegal immigrants for minor offenses, the Obama Administration is now allowing these family members to get a waiver so that they will not be barred from entry.  As such, when they leave the US to go their native country for consular processing of their visas, they will simply need to wait for the few weeks it will take to process the paperwork.

Who is eligible and what USCIS form needs to be filled?  Basically, as long as you meet all the requirements for getting an immigrant visa based on your relationship to an American citizen, you are eligible as long as you can demonstrate that the separation of the family will cause extreme hardship to a US Citizen relative.  Let us say that you are a male illegal immigrant and your American wife is pregnant or has small children or is disabled, you have a strong case.  What is important is that the hardship to the US citizen should be personal.  For instance, if you are married to a US citizen and she does not work even though the hardship is financial, eventually it is personal.  Your attorney can guide you if you can make a case by filing USCIS Form I-601A, Application for a Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver. You will also need to notify the Department of State’s National Visa Center that you will be seeking a provisional waiver from USCIS.  Obviously, you will need to pay hundreds of dollars in fees and wait for a few weeks for the paperwork to be approved, but if this was the only reason that you were reluctant to sponsor your family member for lawful permanent residency, it is time to get started.