Category: Results

USCIS prevented from arguing green card applicant was a terrorist based on prior decision

A federal judge ruled that the United States cannot deny an alleged former terrorist from changing his status from asylee to permanent U.S. resident.  

Mohammad Sher Islam fled to the United States from Pakistan in 2000.  His application for asylum was originally denied but was reversed and approved by the Board of Immigration Appeals.  In the United States, asylum may be granted to a person that suffered  “persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service kept Islam from changing his status because he “engaged in terrorist activity.”

USCIS alleged that he had been involved in “Tier III” terrorist organizations: All Pakistan Mohajir Students Organization and Muttahida Quomi Movement-Altaf Faction.  The Immigration and Nationality Act contains provisions to prevent someone with that association from attaining permanent residency.  

Islam sued USCIS and the Department of Homeland Security under the Administrative Procedures Act in December 2014.  San Francisco’s Federal Court sealed the case on August 12, 2015.  

Islam claims that the issue of his alleged involvement with terrorist organizations was settled during his 2007 asylum hearing and that collateral estoppel prohibits the government from relitigating it.  

U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg ruled in favor of Islam, “The central dispute between the parties is whether collateral estoppel applies to the issue of Islam’s involvement in terrorist activities.  An immigration judge’s decision to grant an application for asylum necessarily includes a determination that the applicant was not involved in terrorist activity prior to the preceding.”

Seeborg went on to say, “Collateral estoppel is triggered by the prior proceeding and, accordingly, plaintiff’s motion must be granted and defendant’s cross motion denied.  Because no exceptions to the doctrine of collateral estoppel apply here, the USCIS’s decision to deny Islam’s application for adjustment of status was arbitrary, capricious and contrary to law.”

The Board of Immigration Appeals had also found that Islam had not been involved in any terrorist activity.  

 

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EB-1 Petition Approved for Rolla, Missouri Scientist

On July 1, 2015, we filed a petition for an alien worker (I-140), a leading scientist from Rolla, Missouri.  We are happy to report that – with premium processing – the case was approved in seven days and without a dreaded request for evidence.  This is the first step towards obtaining lawful permanent resident status.

This interesting case involves a PhD. who specializes in nanotechnology and metals.  He filed for an EB-1 visa for aliens of extraordinary ability.  This case was a self-petition, which means no employer was involved.

In most employment-based immigration cases, an employer is required to file a PERM application with the Department of Labor before filing the visa petition with USCIS.  But for a rare number of workers, the law allows them to self-petition without an employer and without going through the expensive and time-consuming PERM process.  To qualify for the exception, the alien has to satisfy at least three out of ten listed criteria and the standard is very stringent.

Our office is frequently contacted by scientists, researchers, educators and others who believe that they may qualified for this extraordinary path to lawful permanent resident status.  We turn down the vast majority of cases after having a heart-to-heart with the potential applicant.  The standard is very, very high and most people just don’t have the credentials necessary to prevail.

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One significant factor in determining whether these cases get approved is who will write letters in support of the person seeking to obtain the EB-1 visa.  If the potential applicant only has letter writers from a close circle of friends or from people that they studied or worked with, the application is unlikely to succeed.  To prevail, the person really needs world-class individuals in the field to write strong letters of support.

This is why we agreed to take this case.  The client had an impressive publication, teaching and presenting history.  But more importantly, the people that he had writing letters for him were the tops in the field and were both academics and industrial leaders.  We filed what we thought was a strong application and apparently USCIS agreed.

Now our client will need to file for adjustment of status.  We will get working on that shortly.

If you have questions about employment-based visas or would like for us to evaluate your credentials to see if you have a good chance of success, please contact us at (314) 961-8200.

St. Louis Immigration Attorney Jim Hacking Explains Why Working with an Experienced Immigration Attorney Can Boost Your Chances of Success

People who are considering hiring an immigration attorney often ask us why they need an attorney.  Some people interview us and conclude that they can handle their immigration matter without an attorney.  And there are certainly some simple issues that people should feel comfortable handling themselves.

But obtaining lawful permanent resident status for a family member is probably not one of those “simple matters.”  Last month, we were contacted by a very intelligent, sophisticated client who had filed an I-130 family visa petition and I-485 green card application for his mother. This man had lived in the US for a very long time, was a US citizen and highly educated.  His mother’s case had been pending for 10 months – since November of 2012.

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The man had filled out all of the right forms; however, there were one or two small little errors on each of the forms.  Nothing fatal, nothing crucial – just enough to confuse the immigration officers at USCIS.  When the man came to see us, he brought a request for evidence that raised five serious questions about the application.  USCIS invited the man to provide answers to the questions and to submit an entire new, corrected application at no cost.  He had 30 days to do so. Wisely, this time, the man hired us to help him.

None of the issues raised were overly complex or difficult for us to deal with.  We file these family based applications routinely and it was relatively easy for us to clean things up.  We prepared all new forms and resubmitted them to USCIS.  The visa and green card applications were approved in 18 days.  Our client and his mother were very happy.

The lesson to be learned here is that while you can handle some things yourself at immigration, for most matters you are probably better off with a good immigration attorney.  This man and his mother had to “sweat it out” waiting for 10 months because of the little mistakes that they had made in the application.

St. Louis Immigration Attorney Jim Hacking Celebrates Naturalization Ceremony with 2 Clients

 

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Two firm clients naturalized today in a ceremony held at the Old Courthouse in downtown St. Louis.  The two immigrants took the oath with approximately 60 other people from all over the world.  The ceremony was presided over by Judge Henry Autrey of the U.S. District Court in St. Louis.  The CIS Ombudsman was the keynote speaker.

A military marching band provided the musical support.

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We presented both of our clients with a DVD of a naturalization talk that I gave at a prior ceremony.

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Indian national obtains lawful permanent resident status from St. Louis USCIS office

We received word yesterday that our client – a computer programmer from India – had received his green card in the mail.  The case had taken several months to process, mostly due to a delay at the local USCIS office in St. Louis.  Apparently, the case was supposed to have been placed in the interview queue several months ago, but someone forgot to do so.

We followed up on the case with an InfoPass appointment at the USCIS office located at 1222 Spruce Street.  The interview was last week and the case was quickly approved.  Our client received his green card within two weeks of the interview.

 

Green Cards for Moms

We recently assisted two mothers of U.S. citizens obtain lawful permanent resident status.  While the two cases were somewhat similar, the facts of each case provides an interesting look into the nuances of federal immigration law.  These stories also demonstrate why working with an experienced immigration attorney is a good idea.

In the first instance, a woman from Europe had married a U.S. citizen long ago.  The couple had a child and the father made sure to establish the boy’s U.S. citizenship with the State Department.  Some time later, the couple divorced.  The mother and the son came to the U.S. and never returned to Europe.  The mother began her stay in the U.S. in valid visitor status, but her status had lapsed when she finished school.  She did not return home.  When she contacted us, her son was about to turn 21.  As a minor, he was ineligible to apply for a visa for his mother. That changed upon his 21st birthday.  We had all of his immigration paperwork ready to file immediately after his birthday.  The young man is a U.S. Marine and we applied while he was home in St. Louis.  This week, we attended the interview and the mother’s application was approved.  As the parent of a U.S. citizen, her overstay out of status was “forgiven” and she was allowed to adjust status to that of lawful permanent resident status.

In the other case, we had represented an Iraqi man who had naturalized late last year.  His mother had been visiting him for some time and had not returned home to Iraq due to illness.  Once the man obtained his citizenship, we immediately filed for lawful permanent resident status for the mom.  Her interview was this morning and her case was quickly approved.

One of the great joys about practicing immigration law is helping people out of sticky situations.  In both instances, our clients were very nervous about their respective situations.  We were able to counsel them and prepare them for possible outcomes.  By attending the interview and making sure the applications were complete, we helped put their mind at ease and help bring about a favorable result.  That’s a great way to spend a work day.

British Client Receives Green Card Three Days After Interview and Three Months After Filing

We happily received news in mid-January that our client’s application for Lawful Permanent Resident (“LPR”) status had been approved.  Our client, Jennifer G., applied for a spouse visa and green card for her husband, Jake, a British National, on October 26, 2012.  We attended the visa interview on Wednesday, January 9, 2013.  The interview went fine and our client’s various applications were approved on the spot.  Amazingly, Jake’s green card arrived on Saturday, January 12, 2013, less than 72 hours after the interview and less than three months after it was filed.  This lightning fast turnaround greatly pleased our clients as Jake’s brother was getting married overseas in late January and he needed to receive the green card in order to safely leave the country.  Jennifer has a big following on Twitter (@dearinterwebs) and she tweeted “Thanks to the best immigration attorney, @jimhacking, [Jake’s] green card arrived today!” to her 649 followers.

A couple of points need to be made about this case.  First, this is an atypical result and we have never had a green card approved this quickly before.  In fact, we have several clients who filed before this couple that are still waiting on their interview (thus demonstrating the arbitrary way that USCIS goes about its business).

Also, we had filed a work authorization card and travel document request with the initial applications.  Because of delays at USCIS in the issuance of work authorization cards (due to a backlog created by the new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program), Jake received his green card before actually receiving his employment authorization card (which is unusual).

So very happy for our clients.

 

St. Louis Immigration Law Firm Helps Local Professor Obtain Green Card as EB-1 Outstanding Professor; I-140 approved in 24 hours

“Thank you oh so much,” was the phrase recently delivered to us by a local university professor after receiving word that she had been granted lawful permanent resident status as an Outstanding Professor in the EB-1 Category.  Our client teaches at a local university and we had prepared an extensive package demonstrating the outstanding nature of her application.

This particular client had received numerous prizes and grants in her field of study.  She had collaborated with researches from around the country and throughout the world in her particular area of expertise.  Her work had been cited by experts in other scientific journals and she had been asked to judge the work submitted by others to academic journals.

While we certainly never purposefully add bulk to an application, this particular client had such extensive documentation of her numerous successes, that her application with USCIS ended up weighing nearly 4 pounds.  Because we paid the premium processing fee, we knew that our client’s application would be decided relatively quickly.  We were shocked, however, to find out that the professor’s I-140 immigrant worker petition (which served as the basis of the green card application) had been approved in less than 24 hours.  We have had many successful immigration applications in the past, but this was an absolute first!

We are very happy for our client, the professor.  The United States will be a better place because she will stay here.

If you need assistance with an employment based immigrant visa, please call the St. Louis immigration law firm of the Hacking Law Practice, LLC at 314-961-8200 or visit our contact page right here.

USCIS Approves Green Card Despite Six Year Overstay

One of the great things about practicing immigration law is the ability to continuing to help people after their initial matter.  We have a client from Bosnia who we helped obtain citizenship a few years ago despite an old gun arrest.  Last year, our client married a young lady from Bosnia who had come to the United States in 2006 on a visitor visa and never returned home.  Her visa had expired years ago.

U.S. immigration law provides that if an alien was inspected but overstayed their visa, their subsequent marriage to a United States citizen will “clean up” the overstay.  That is, the spouse of a U.S. citizen can still adjust to lawful permanent resident status despite having overstayed.  This rule does not apply to people who were never inspected by agents of Customs and Border Patrol.

Earlier this year, we filed a spouse visa and adjustment application on behalf of our young Bosnian couple.  We appeared before the St. Louis field office of USCIS on Tuesday and received word yesterday that our client’s application to adjust status had been approved.  Our client will receive a conditional two year green card.  Prior to the expiration of the two years, we will file to have the conditions removed and she will receive a ten year green card, assuming the couple is still married and everything is in order.  Of course, one year later, our client can apply for naturalization as the result of being married to a U.S. citizen.

St. Louis Immigration Attorney Jim Hacking Helps Keep Man From Being Deported To Haiti

On Monday, the Executive Office for Immigration Review in Kansas City bestowed lawful permanent resident status on a longtime client of the Hacking Law Practice, LLC.  The young man was born in Haiti.  His mother married a U.S. citizen many years ago and the young man’s father adopted him.  The mother and her son came to the United States as visitors in the late 1990s.  They did not return home at the time that their visitor visas expired.  Instead, they overstayed and waited years to file for the immigration benefits that were available to them.  While a spouse visa was eventually filed for the mom, no visa application was filed for the son (whom we will call Bert).

The mother eventually obtained lawful permanent resident status (a green card).  However, no immigration benefit was filed for Bert.  When Bert turned 19, his U.S. citizen stepfather and mother did file an I-130 immediate relative visa petition and an application to adjust Bert’s status from (out of status) alien to lawful permanent resident status.  The case was eventually transferred to the St. Louis office of USCIS, where it languished for several years.

In the meantime, Bert got into a little bit of criminal trouble.  In 2009, while Bert was driving in a rural county, a police officer flashed his lights at Bert.  Knowing he was out of status, Bert allegedly attempted to escape.  He was charged with resisting arrest, a Class D felony under Missouri criminal law.  Bert’s court appointed public defender reached a plea deal with the prosecutor.  Bert pleaded guilty and received a two year jail sentence, with probation and credit for time served.  That same year, Bert received a citation for stealing a tire in downtown St. Louis.  Bert pleaded guilty to this charge without the benefit of legal advice.

Based on these two convictions, USCIS then denied the adjustment of status application.  USCIS never adjudicated Bert’s I-130 immediate relative visa petition.  In January of 2010, ICE then arrested Bert and charged him with being deportable (1) as an overstay and (2) as having two crimes involving moral turpitude (CIMTs).  Because Bert was charged with having 2 CIMTs, he was subject to mandatory detention and was held at the Mississippi County Jail in southern Missouri.

The Hacking Law Practice was then asked to get involved in the case and we agreed to handle the case on a pro bono basis.  First, we filed a motion to vacate the guilty plea on the tire stealing charge.  We argued that Bert’s plea was not a knowing and voluntary waiver of his right to go to trial and contest the charges because he did not know that by pleading guilty to the tire stealing charge, he would be rendered deportable.  The St. Louis Circuit Court vacated the conviction and the plea.  Second, we worked with the local USCIS office to have his long-pending I-130 adjudicated.  Bert was transported to the USCIS office in handcuffs and interviewed in his orange jumpsuit.  The I-130 was approved.  USCIS also purported to deny a second adjustment application which included an I-601 waiver, which is a request for discretionary relief that allows for certain “bad facts” to be considered but disregarded by the adjudicating officer.  Third, working with the appellate division of the Missouri Public Defender’s office, we moved to have the outstate conviction for resisting arrest vacated because his prior attorney did not advise him that he could face deportation as the result of the plea.  After a half day proceeding, the resisting arrest court vacated the plea.  That charge remains pending.

On Monday, St. Louis immigration attorney Jim Hacking flew to Kansas City for a hearing before the EOIR.  We argued that Bert was deserving of the discretionary I-601 waiver, which allows for lawful permanent resident status to be awarded even in the face of prior arrests.  In addition, we argued that USCIS’s denial of the waiver was invalid because once Bert was in removal proceedings, only the immigration judge could decide that issue.

On the merits, we discussed the factors in support of waiver, i.e., the good things that Bert had done in his life – like supporting his U.S. citizen sisters and stepfather, church work and the fact that he earned his GED while in jail.  We also discussed the horrendous conditions that continue to exist in Haiti.  Because the convictions were vacated, we pointed out that there were no actual criminal convictions pending against Bert.  In addition, because he was the beneficiary of an approved I-130, his overstay was to be forgiven as he had more than ten years of continuous residence in the U.S.  After a full hearing in which Bert’s mother testified in person and Bert testified via video teleconference from the Lincoln county jail, immigration judge John O’Malley granted Bert’s request for relief and awarded him lawful permanent resident status.  After 23 months in the custody of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Judge O’Malley ordered Bert released from custody.  The order came the day before Bert’s birthday.

At the end of the hearing, Judge O’Malley said, “Mr. Hacking, you are to be commended for the excellent legal work that you did on behalf of your client.”  To top it off, we got a hug from Bert’s mom.  In total, our firm spent hours and hours and incurred a tremendous number of costs in this case.  But we knew it was an important case and we believed in Bert.

If you or a family member is facing deportation to your home country, the immigration attorneys at the Hacking Law Practice, LLC, may be able to help you fight deportation.  Please give us a call at 314-961-8200 or use our contact form below.