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Posted on December 16, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

The U.S. Department of State (DOS) reports that no later than April 30, 2010, all non-immigrant visa applicants worldwide will be required to use web-based form DS-160. The DS-160 form will combine the previous forms DS-156 and DS-157 and 158. Since not all U.S. Embassy’s and U.S. Consulates have implemented form DS-160, all consular posts that are not currently utilizing the DS-160 Web-based form will eventually be instructed to implement the DS-160 between March 1, and April 30, 2010. To review the list of the 24 consular posts currently using the new form DS-160, please visit

Posted on December 14, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

The following U.S. Citizenship and Immigration (USCIS) programs have been extended until September 30, 2012:

  • E-Verify
  • Immigrant Investor Pilot Program (EB-5)
  • Special immigrant visa category for non-minister religious workers
  • Conrad 30

  USCIS will continue to accept and process the petitions/applications for the programs that have now been extended to September 30, 2012.  

E-Verify Program: Program operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA) allowing employers to verify the employment eligibility of the newly hired employees.


EB-5 Program: USCIS will continue to receive and decide the Petitions by Alien Entrepreneur and Applications to Adjust Status.


Special Immigrant for Non-Minister Religious Worker Program: Non-minister workers include non-ministers within a religious vocation or occupation and their spouses and children.


Conrad 30: Allows the state health departments to request from the Department of State a waiver of the two year foreign residence for foreign medical graduates in J-1 status. The program extends to cover J-1 admissions before September 30, 2012.


More information regarding the programs is available at www.uscis.gov.


Posted on December 9, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

On December 8, 2009, Ruben Navarrette, Jr., a Syndicated Columnist and Editorial Board Member for the San Diego Union-Tribune was in Dallas, Texas to talk about “Business Immigration Reform.” He provided some interesting immigration facts. The following are a few excerpts.

  • Six in ten Hispanic adults in the U.S. who are neither citizens nor legal permanent residents lack health insurance. This rate is twice as high as the rate among Hispanic adults who are citizens or legal permanent residents. Pew Hispanic Center Survey, pewhispanic.org, 2009 surveys.
  • The flow of immigrants from Mexico to the U.S. has declined sharply since mid-decade, but there is no evidence of an increase of Mexican-born migrants returning home from the U.S. Pew Hispanic Center Survey, pewhispanic.org, 2009 surveys.
  • The number of Hispanic children has nearly tripled since 1980 and their demographic profile has changed. More than half of the nation’s Hispanic children are now “second generation.” Pew Hispanic Center Survey, pewhispanic.org, 2009 surveys.
  • During the housing boom of 1993-2005, the nation’s minority groups experienced greater gains than whites in homeownership rates. Pew Hispanic Center Survey, pewhispanic.org, 2009 surveys.
  • The levels of participation in last year’s presidential election was the most racially and ethnically diverse in U.S. history. The Hispanic vote was 7.4% of the total electorate up 1.4% from 2004. Pew Hispanic Center Survey, pewhispanic.org, 2009 surveys. 
  • The nation’s approximately 12 million unauthorized immigrants are more geographically dispersed than in the past. Unauthorized immigrants are more likely than either U.S. born residents or legal immigrants to live in a household with children, a growing share of whom — 73% — are U.S. born citizens. Pew Hispanic Center Survey, pewhispanic.org, 2009 surveys.

Posted on November 11, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

Individuals unable to provide documentation to prove a biological relationship may prove the biological relationship through DNA testing. The DNA testing is the only acceptable non-documentary method, and only if no other credible proof of the relationship exists. Thus, all other methods for confirming a biological relationship must be exhausted, and a consular officer will recommend DNA testing only as the last resort.

Once the consular officer recommends the DNA testing, a lab technician employed by the panel physician will take the DNA collection at the U.S. embassy or consulate (off-site testing facilities are not acceptable). The DNA collection is witnessed by the consular officer or another American citizen employee of the consular section possessing national security clearance. Once the DNA collection has been taken, the consular officer will forward the petition to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) since USCIS is authorized to approve petitions supported solely on DNA testing, and consular officers are not authorized. In order to prove a biological relationship, the DNA test results must show 99.5% or greater between a parent and a child to be accepted.  

For more information on other possible methods for confirming existence of a biological relationship or DNA testing, call Kraft & Associates at 214-999-9999.

Posted on September 16, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

Before submitting petitions and applications to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), it is vital to make sure the appropriate filing fees for the particular application is included. We’ve had several queries regarding payment to USCIS in connection with the filing fees. Some queries involved what to include on the check, who to write the check to, who should sign the check, and whether personal checks or money orders are allowed.

5 Useful Tips Regarding Checks to USCIS

  1. Make sure your home address, phone number, correct date, correct amount, and signature are on your check;
  2. Make checks payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security”;
  3. Make sure the amount on the check is the exact amount of the application fees as listed on the USCIS Web site;
  4. Only an authorized person designated on the bank account is allowed to sign the check;
  5. Bank drafts, cashier’s checks, certified checks, personal checks, and money orders are allowed – and must be drawn on U.S. financial institutions and payable in U.S. funds.

For more information on filing immigration fees, and check instructions, please visit the Immigration Service’s Web site at www.uscis.gov.

Posted on September 15, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

Attorney Eugenia Ponce recently wrote a blog post here cautioning Lawful Permanent Residents to keep their trips abroad relatively short. Here is the text of that post:

Lawful permanent residents (LPR) of the United States (green card holders) need to keep their trips abroad to a relatively short period of time. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) could determine that an LPR has abandoned their residence if the LPR’s intent was not to return to the U.S. within a relatively short period of time.   Factors DHS could consider in evaluating the LPR’s intent include:   Whether the trip abroad is lengthy or for a short period of time; LPR’s family ties in the U.S.; property holding in the U.S.; business affiliations within the U.S.;

LPR’s family, property, and business ties in the foreign country.

After that was posted, we were asked what exactly we meant by the term “relatively short.” Of course the answer, as always, depends on several factors. But here is a further explanation from Ms. Ponce:

What a “relatively short period of time” is can’t be defined in terms of elapsed time alone. Generally, lawful permanent residents (LPR) can use their green cards to return to the United States after a temporary absence not exceeding one year. The most important factor in concluding whether an LPR abandoned his or her U.S. residence is to look at the LPR’s actual intent to return to the United States after a short trip, along with the other factors such as property, business, and family ties inside the U.S. and in the foreign country. An LPR returning to the U.S. once a year for a few days doesn’t “automatically revalidate” a green card in a situation in which the lawful permanent resident has actually been residing abroad.

Posted on August 13, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPR) of the U.S. who are pre-approved, low-risk travelers are eligible to participate in the Global Entry Program, which allows expedited clearance upon arrival from international travel. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) began their pilot system on June 6, 2009, in seven airport locations throughout the United States. Beginning August 24, 2009, the Global Entry Program will expand the program to include kiosks at 13 additional international U.S. airports including airports in Boston, Massachusetts; Dallas, Texas; Detroit, Michigan; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Honolulu, Hawaii; Las Vegas, Nevada; N.J.; Orlando, Florida; Sanford, Florida; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; San Juan, Puerto Rico; San Francisco, California, and Seattle, Washington.   Upon arrival from international travel, approved members of the Global Entry Program will use kiosks and complete their CBP processing. After answering customs declaration questions on the kiosk’s touch-screen, a transaction receipt will be printed. The receipt will be presented to CBP officers before leaving the inspection area. This program is an alternative to regular passport processing lines. Thus, individuals wishing to utilize the program may complete their interview and biometric data collection at enrollment centers at any of the Global Entry sites.  

More information on the Global Entry Program is available at the CBP Web site.

Posted on July 22, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

U.S. citizens throughout the southwest border region who suddenly have an urgent travel need now have access to a new passport issuance facility. On July 13, 2009, the 22nd U.S. passport issuance facility opened in Dallas, Texas. The Dallas Passport Agency joins the Houston Passport Agency in providing in-person passport services to U.S. citizens and issuing the passport books on-site to qualifying applicants.  

The Dallas Passport Agency is located at 1100 Commerce Street, conveniently located in downtown Dallas. For more information regarding passport costs, and applications, please visit the U.S. Department of State’s Web site at www.travel.state.gov.

Posted on July 17, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

Lawful permanent residents (LPR) of the United States (green card holders) need to keep their trips abroad to a relatively short period of time. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) could determine that an LPR has abandoned their residence if the LPR’s intent was not to return to the U.S. within a relatively short period of time.   Factors DHS could consider in evaluating the LPR’s intent include:   Whether the trip abroad is lengthy or for a short period of time; LPR’s family ties in the U.S.; property holding in the U.S.; business affiliations within the U.S.; LPR’s family, property, and business ties in the foreign country.  

Please call Kraft & Associates at (214)999-9999 if you have any questions regarding abandonment of residency.

Posted on July 15, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

A frequent question that arises is whether a foreign national living in the United States for a certain number of years can obtain permanent residency based on the years of living in the United States. There is no law or regulation currently in place allowing foreign nationals to automatically obtain permanent residency based on the number of years residing in the United States. There are however, many ways foreign nationals can immigrate and obtain permanent resident status. Two ways to obtain permanent resident status are based on employment and family sponsorship.   One of the ways foreign nationals can obtain permanent residency is based on employment. The U.S. employer will sponsor the employee to qualify under a certain visa category. Specifically, the foreign national may qualify under one or more of the employment-based “EB” visa preference categories that are divided into four separate categories.   The four EB visa preference categories are:   EB-1: Extraordinary Ability, Professors, Researches, or Executives, filed on form I-140 EB-2: Exceptional Ability in the Sciences, Arts or Business, filed on form I-140 EB-3: Skilled Worker, Professional, Or Unskilled Worker, filed on form I-140 EB-4: Immigrant Religious Worker, filed on form I-360

Another process to obtain lawful permanent residence in the U.S. is through family sponsorship. That is, either a U.S. citizen or permanent resident family member or as a fiancé to a U.S. citizen and subsequent marriage. The process begins by either the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident relative filing form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative or form I-129F Petition for Alien Fiance with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Just as in employment-based sponsorship, there are visa preference categories in family-based sponsorship. Family-based “FB” preference categories are divided into four categories.   FB-1: Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. Citizens FB-2A: Spouses and children of lawful permanent residents of the U.S. FB-2B: unmarried sons and daughters of permanent residents of the U.S. FB-3: Married sons and daughters of U.S. Citizens. FB-4: Brothers and sisters of U.S. Citizens who are at least 21 years old.  

The above preference categories are subject to a numerical limitation. More information on these visa categories is available at the U.S. Department of State’s visa bulletin at:  www.travel.state.gov

Posted on July 10, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

Certain immigration forms are used to petition U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to classify a foreign national for an immigrant or a non-immigrant visa based on either employment or family. Prior to submitting the forms to USCIS, there are 8 simple tips to follow for proper filing. They are:

  1. Use the most current edition of the form available on the USCIS Website;
  2. Follow instructions on the form to see who qualifies;
  3. If a question does not apply to you, make sure you write “NONE” or “N/A”;
  4. Type the information. If typing is not feasible, then print legibly;
  5. Don’t forget the appropriate filing fee. Make the check or money order payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Do not send cash;
  6. Make sure the Petitioner or Beneficiary signs and dates where appropriate;
  7. Do not forget the supporting documentation to support the petition or application;
  8. Send the petition to the correct mailing address. If the petition is sent to the wrong mailing address, the petition can be rejected for improper filing.

You can avoid a petition being rejected or a final decision being delayed by USCIS by following these eight simple tips.

Posted on June 17, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

U.S. Citizens can apply for a passport card that allows re-entry into the U.S. at land border-crossings or sea ports-of–entry from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean region (which includes 17 nations), and Bermuda.

The 17 Caribbean nations are: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Jamaica (except for business travel), Montserrat, Netherlands Antilles, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Turks and Caicos.

The passport card was designed to comply with the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), which became effective June 1, 2009, for land and sea requirements). The card is a U.S passport and it attests to an individual’s U.S. citizenship and identity.

There are security features on the card to mitigate the possibility of counterfeiting and forgery. Some of the advantages of the passport card are the convenience of having a wallet-size card, it is less expensive than the passport book ($45 for adults; $35 for minors under age 16), smaller than the book, and U.S. citizens who travel frequently to countries listed above don’t have to take their U.S. passport book every time they seek to re-enter the U.S.

More information is available at www.travel.state.gov.

Posted on June 10, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

A signing ceremony was held on June 3, 2009, to formally announce the schedule that will initiate the permanent retention and transfer of alien registration files (“A-files”) from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to the National Archives and Records Administration.   An A-file documents the complete history of every interaction between the United States government and an individual alien. These comprehensive files may contain a wealth of information for genealogists and historians, from photographs, marriage licenses, foreign birth certificates, recordings, and interview transcripts, in addition to the more routine biographical and demographic information. A-files were previously considered to be temporary records and could have been destroyed 75 years after the date the file was retired to a Federal Records Center or date of last action. Now, however, these A-files will become a permanent record and will be transferred to the custody of the National Archives 100 years from the person’s date of birth. Newly-eligible files will also be transferred to the National Archives for processing every five years.   USCIS currently maintains approximately 53 million A-files. Of these 53 million, 21 million have been retired to a Federal Records Center. The National Archives could finish processing 135,000 files by next summer, at which time these files would become available for public access at National Archives facilities in Kansas City or San Francisco. Copies of the A-files will also be made available through the mail.  

More information about the USCIS or the A-file preservation program may be found at: www.uscis.gov.

Posted on April 28, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

The U.S. Department of State has issued a Travel Health Warning, alerting all U.S. citizens of the health risks of traveling to Mexico as a result of the swine flu outbreak. The travel alert will be effective until July 27, 2009 and can be found here.  

With the travel alert in effect, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico has taken precautionary measures as well. All consular offices in Mexico are closed until May 5, 2009, with the exception of the immigrant visa section in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Thus, applicants with visa and waiver appointments in Ciudad Juarez should proceed with attending their scheduled appointments. The travel restriction to Mexico affects individuals with scheduled appointments this week. The Embassy’s scheduling center will contact these individuals to reschedule appointments. It is important that individuals with upcoming visa appointments in Mexico regularly visit the U.S Embassy in Mexico’s Web site for additional information as well as the U.S. Department of State.

Posted on February 17, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

I’ve been attending TECHSHOW, presented by the American Bar Association almost since the beginning, many years ago. It’s always a highlight of my year. The enormous amount of technical information presented is only one reason to attend. Equally important to me is the opportunity to meet in person with many of the friends I correspond with online.

This is one event that lawyers can’t afford NOT to attend. Now is the time to learn about new technologies and new methods of doing business.

I  think TECHSHOW is absolutely wonderful, and I recommend it very highly. It’s aimed more toward the solo and small firm lawyer, but there are seminar tracks for IT specialists and Big Law members as well. The exhibit area is fascinating and the hallway conversations are always fun. Check it out at TECHSHOW.com.

Here are some details, provided by the ABA:

•    ABA TECHSHOW is the world’s premier legal technology CLE conference & expo. The three-day CLE conference is attended by more than 1,500 professionals each year and produces more than 50 legal technology CLE programs and training sessions in fifteen topical tracks. •    The ABA TECHSHOW 2009 is presented by the ABA Law Practice Management Section, April 2-4, 2009, once again at the Hilton Chicago, in the magnificent Windy City! •    TECHSHOW offers something for everyone—from new solos to large firm partners, from tech beginners to advanced IT directors—there are educational sessions for all. With plenty of “networking” time to talk with other lawyers and experts on the technology issues facing your firm. •    The social networking and marketing with technology sessions, alone, are well worth the price of admission.  These seminars will help you generate new clients and new business from existing clients. •    The growth of eDiscovery is not stopping due to recession, so lawyers must continue to learn and update their knowledge. •    The sessions feature the best of the best in legal technology. Practicing lawyers and nationally-known legal technologists sharing practical strategies and ideas to build new business and make your firm or offices more efficient and cost-effective. •    Expand your referral network by meeting other lawyers from around the country. Build relationships at organized activities such as TECHSHOW After Dark for entertainment, food and drinks. Participate in the Taste of ABA TECHSHOW and dine with speakers and other attendees at one of several Chicago restaurants. •    Friday, April 3 is Solo & Small Firm Day, offering lawyers in these firms a special one-day admission with two all-day tracks of seminars especially for small firms. •    ABA TECHSHOW also features a two-day expo. Learn about the latest products and services in the Expo Hall, featuring more than 100 companies providing the latest hardware, software, and technology services to attorneys and law firms. •    Meet product and service vendors who may have more knowledge and experience than your local representative. No one wants to make a mistake buying the wrong software for the entire office. Make sure you are getting the right information before you buy! •    One-day passes are available at discounted registration fees. Super passes are also available for groups up to 10 persons from the same firm or for ANY group of 10 people (submitting their registrations together and one 1 check) for one flat rate! •    Attendance to the Expo Hall only is free with an Expo Hall Pass. •    Take advantage of the world’s premier legal technology CLE conference and expo at a substantial discount by registering before the February 28, early-bird deadline.

•    This year’s featured keynote is Richard Susskind, author of The Future of Law, and his new sequel, The End of Lawyers?, who has 25 years of legal technology experience, and serves as Chair of the Advisory Panel on Public Sector Information and has been IT Adviser to the Lord Chief Justice of England.

Posted on December 31, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Lawful permanent residents (LPR) who are outside the United States for a short period of time, and seek entry back into the U.S. must present their permanent resident card (“green card”). If an LPR is going to be outside of the U.S. for more than one year, then the LPR must apply for a re-entry permit. The re-entry permit must be applied for in the United States, and the LPR must remain in the United States until biometrics (fingerprints) are taken.   If you applied for a re-entry permit, and departed the U.S. before the biometrics were taken, the permit may be denied as abandoned. Before departing the United States, a request to expedite scheduling of the required biometrics appointment may be made.  

Please call us for more information on expedited biometric appointment scheduling.

Posted on December 23, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Individuals who applied for U.S passports, paid the additional $60 for expedited service, and have reason to believe they did not receive the expedited service, may request a refund of the $60 expedited passport fee. Refunds are determined by the Department of State on a case-by-case basis. If you applied for your passport, paid the $60 expedited service fee, had a planned trip, did not receive your passport in time for the trip, and reasonably believe the service was not expedited, e-mail your refund request to refundsatpassportservices@state.gov.  

Please visit the Department of State’s Web site for more information.


Posted on October 12, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

I’m not sure how anyone could disagree with the statements in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but even if you do, you’ll still appreciate the beautiful video representation of the words in this declaration. Enjoy.

Posted on September 6, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

I wrote a note just a few days ago about the seemingly unjustified decision by the LPGA to require all professional golfers to be proficient in English in order to play on the U.S. tour. Now the Dallas Morning News reports that the tour has reversed its decision, and will simply encourage players to “get by with the basics of the language.”

Of course I understand the reasons for the original decision —the corporate sponsors of the golf tournaments want the players to be able to chat with the sponsors and with the amateur players who pay thousands of dollars to play on the pro-am days of the tournament. But the original decree was just too ham-fisted. A gentler approach will be better, and will ensure that the LPGA appears to be more interested in good golf than in keeping the sponsorship money flowing. Here are excerpts: 

Under increasing criticism, the LPGA Tour on Friday backed off plans to suspend players who cannot speak English well enough to be understood at pro-ams, in interviews or in making acceptance speeches at tournaments.

LPGA Tour commissioner Carolyn Bivens said she would have a revised plan by the end of the year that would not include suspensions, although fining non-English speakers remains an option.

Bivens disclosed the tour’s original plan in a meeting with South Korean players two weeks ago at the Safeway Classic in Portland, Ore., Golfweek magazine reported. The policy, which had not been written, was widely criticized as discriminatory, particularly against Asian players.

Bivens’ announcement came two hours before the Asian Pacific American Legal Center planned a news conference in Los Angeles to demand the LPGA overturn its policy.

Posted on August 28, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Here’s an interesting little story not directly related to immigration. I watch quite a bit of golf on TV, men’s and women’s. I’ve noticed the dominance of Asian players on the ladies tour, especially South Korean players. Now a story emerges that the Ladies Professional Golf Association is going to require fluency in English in order to qualify for the tour. This seems a bit like requiring truck drivers to read English in order to get a commercial driver’s license, but without the same justification. Here are some excerpts from an Associated Press article today:

The LPGA Tour boasts players from all over the world, and it wants all of them to be able to speak English.

Golfweek magazine reported on its Web site Monday that speaking English will be a requirement starting in 2009, with players who have been LPGA members for two years facing suspension if they can’t pass an oral evaluation of English skills.

There are 121 international players from 26 countries on the LPGA Tour, including 45 players from South Korea.

Posted on August 19, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

This is my second request for donations to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, but time is running short, and I’m still not at my goal. I’m going to be locked away in “jail” if some of you don’t help bail me out. Here’s what I said earlier in the month:

I’m proud to tell you that I’m being locked up…that’s right, I’m going behind bars to help Jerry’s Kids and MDA. To be released on good behavior I have to raise bail and I need your help!

All you have to do is click here to make a secure, online donation before 08/28/08. Your donation will help families living in our community and help guarantee me an early release. I can’t wait to add you to my list of contributors. No amount is too small to help.

If you don’t want to pay by credit card online, you can mail a check for any amount, payable to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, to me at:

Kraft & Associates 2777 Stemmons Freeway, Suite 1300

Dallas, Texas 75207

Thank you so very much for your help. Don’t hesitate to call or e-mail me with any questions.

Together we’ll make a difference,
Bob Kraft

P.S. I’m counting on you, click here to donate.

If the link above does not work, please cut and paste the address below into the address bar of your Internet browser.

Posted on August 5, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

I’m proud to tell you that I’m being locked up…that’s right, I’m going behind bars to help Jerry’s Kids and MDA. To be released on good behavior I have to raise bail and I need your help!

All you have to do is click here to make a secure, online donation before 08/28/08. Your donation will help families living in our community and help guarantee me an early release. I can’t wait to add you to my list of contributors. No amount is too small to help.

If you don’t want to pay by credit card online, you can mail a check for any amount, payable to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, to me at:

Kraft & Associates 2777 Stemmons Freeway, Suite 1300

Dallas, Texas 75207

Thank you so very much for your help. Don’t hesitate to call or e-mail me with any questions.

Together we’ll make a difference,
Bob Kraft

P.S. I’m counting on you, click here to donate.

If the link above does not work, please cut and paste the address below into the address bar of your Internet browser.

Posted on March 19, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

This is the first-ever movie review in this blog, and probably the last, but a new movie got such a good review today in the Dallas Morning News that I wanted to mention it.

Under The Same Moon
is directed by Patricia Riggen. Here are excerpts from the Dallas Morning News article:

Anti-immigration talk bubbles to the surface in election years and burbles from the mouth of Lou Dobbs seemingly every minute. It’s been a rallying cry from the days of the 19th-century Know Nothing movement to today’s skirmishes in Farmers Branch. But for those on the outside, the talk often lacks a human dimension. And that’s where movies enter the picture.

Patricia Riggen, Guadalajara-born and Columbia University-educated, hopes her Under the Same Moon, which opens today at the Magnolia and Plano Angelika theaters, can be one of those movies.

On one level, it’s the most basic and universal of stories: A child, separated from his mother, embarks on an epic journey to find her. “I want to remind people that it’s about the human condition and the separation of loved ones,” Ms. Riggen said recently in a Dallas hotel conference room.

But the dividing line of this particular separation is the U.S.-Mexican border. Rosario (Kate del Castillo) has journeyed to Los Angeles to make a living as a domestic. Her young son, Carlitos (Adrian Alonso), remains back home in Mexico with his grandmother – until she dies and the kid decides he needs his mom.

Finding mom. It’s an impulse so basic that it makes talk of “illegals” sound like a dry policy debate.

“All of the conversations and controversy are always focused on the economic or political side of immigration and not on the human family side of it,” Ms. Riggen says. “That’s what I wanted to look at. I didn’t want to do a political film. I just wanted to show the human side of this story that we hear every day.”

She leaves the obvious unstated: It’s harder to hate people once you’ve walked in their shoes. Even when you walk sitting down in a dark theater.

Movies that put children in jeopardy have to be handled in a delicate manner. There needs to be enough danger for the audience to become invested in the story. Too much danger, and the movie becomes manipulative or even exploitative.

Ms. Riggen’s film could have been a forum for a political debate about immigration laws. There are a few mentions, but never enough to distract from the movie’s central message: what we will do for love.

For Rosario, it is the willingness to be away from her only son to be able to give him a better standard of living. She shows a real strength when a simple solution to her problem presents itself. But the script by Ligiah Villalobos takes that plotline in a refreshing direction.

It would be easy to dismiss Under the Same Moon as being of interest only for those who understand or care about immigration issues. But the heart of the film is a story of how love can make people move mountains. And that is a universal theme.
In Spanish with English subtitles.

Posted on February 7, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, as amended (INA), stipulates that physicians who have entered the United States to undertake a J-1 graduate medical training or education program are uniformly subject to the obligation to return to their home country or country of last residence for a period of two years. INA §212(e). J-1 visa holders are eligible for waiver of the two-year home residence requirement based upon exceptional hardship to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or child. INA §212(e). There are three other bases for filing a waiver to the two-year foreign residency requirement, but this discussion will be on the exceptional hardship waiver.

In determining a hardship waiver, exceptional hardship must be shown with respect to the U.S. citizen spouse or child in the event they remain in the United States and the foreign spouse returns to the home country. The applicant must also show hardship if the spouse or child accompany the foreign national abroad for two years.

Factors considered to form the basis of exceptional hardship include where the U.S. citizen spouse would be required to interrupt a professional career, suffer unemployment and separation of family.The country conditions to which the exchange visitor and the U.S. citizen or resident spouse would return must also be considered, particularly where they are shown to impact psychological and physical health. Other factors are considered to form the basis of a finding of exceptional hardship as well.

For example, where it is shown that the citizen spouse would suffer adverse consequences to their medical studies by the departure of their J-1 spouse, and that their career would be set back if he or she were either to interrupt their education or attempt to continue their studies in the spouse’s country. Similarly, the threat of disruption of the education of an exchange visitor’s spouse would constitute sufficient hardship to justify granting the waiver. In evaluating a claim of exceptional hardship, evidence of the disruption of the career or of the education of the U.S. citizen or resident spouse will be considered, along with other relevant factors mentioned above.

To learn more about waivers to the two-year foreign residency requirement, please call us at 214-999-9999.

Posted on February 5, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Foreign nationals who do not have a valid immigrant visa and wish to travel multiple times outside the United States will need permission to re-enter the United States. An individual who filed an adjustment of status (AOS) application will need a travel document (advance parole) to re-enter the United States. If the AOS application is pending, the foreign national should submit form I-131 Travel Document Application prior to departure. Otherwise, if the foreign national leaves the United States while the AOS application is pending, the application will be deemed abandoned and the AOS application will eventually be denied.

Be aware travelers, in order to avoid the termination of a pending AOS application, it is imperative to apply for Advance Parole prior to leaving the United States. An advance parole is approved within 90 days and is valid for multiple trips throughout one year. Of course, once the foreign national receives his or her green card, an advance parole is no longer needed.

Please note there are certain foreign nationals who may not apply for advance parole. An advance parole document is not available for individuals in the United States illegally, under removal proceedings, or who are exchange foreign nationals subject to the residency requirement.

Please contact us to learn more about Advance Parole and the information needed to apply for an Advance Parole.

Posted on January 21, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Foreign nationals may obtain their green cards by marriage through a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR). If the marriage is less than two years old at the time residence is granted, the foreign national will receive conditional permanent resident status. Conditional residents and their spouses are required to remove those conditions two years after residency is granted by filing a Petition to Remove Conditions on Form I-751.

The most pressing question is whether divorce during the specified period affects the Petition to Remove Conditions. If the marriage falls apart during that two year window, it will be necessary to file for a waiver of the requirement that both spouses sign the petition.

However, the conditional resident requesting a waiver will have to show the marriage was entered into in good faith. In order to show the Immigration Service that the marriage was entered in good faith, the alien should provide documents such as birth certificates of the children, documents showing that the financial assets and liabilities were combined, and documents showing the length of time the parties lived together.

If you have questions regarding how to file a waiver of the requirement to file I-751 jointly, please call us.

Posted on December 7, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Generally, a lawful permanent resident (LPR) must have continuous residence in the United States for five years (or 3 years if married to a U.S. citizen) in order to be eligible for citizenship. Continuous residence in the United States does not mean that an LPR cannot leave the country for the entire five years (or three years if married to a USC) in order to qualify for citizenship. On the contrary, LPR’s can travel freely without the hassle of obtaining a visa from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service. However, LPR’s must make sure they do not face the problem of abandoning the continuous physical presence requirement.

An LPR may be deemed to have disrupted the “continuous residence” requirement if the LPR travels out of the United States a few times a year, or if an LPR is outside of the country for over six months. If an LPR continuously maintains a residence in the United States but is physically outside of the United States for over a year, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may decide that the continuous residence has been abandoned. If an LPR has not properly maintained the continuous physical residence requirement, and the DHS determines that an LPR has abandoned his or her residency, DHS can refuse an LPR back into the United States.

Attention all frequent-flyer residents: Make sure your trips abroad are for short periods of time. Please note that the continuous physical residence requirement is one requirement that must be satisfied to qualify for citizenship. There are other requirements that must be met in order to establish citizenship eligibility. Please contact us if you would like to begin your citizenship process.

Posted on November 29, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

If a foreign national is married less than two years to a U.S. Citizen, the alien spouse may be granted conditional permanent resident status in the United States from the time residency is granted. Is there a difference between permanent residence and conditional permanent residence? No. Conditional permanent residents have the same rights, privileges and obligations as permanent residents. The only difference is that conditional permanent residents must file a petition to remove their conditions a year and nine months from the time their residencies are granted.

Alien spouses currently in conditional resident status must not forget to remove their conditions on Form I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions. Such petition should be accompanied with evidence that the alien spouse and U.S. Citizen spouse continue to reside together and have a valid marriage. Supporting documents include utility bills bearing both names, apartment leases showing joint tenancy, joint accounts, and birth certificates of children. The petition to remove the conditions must be filed one year and nine months from the date the alien spouse was granted conditional permanent resident status. Failure to file the petition removing the conditions may result in the termination of the alien spouse’s permanent resident status and removal proceedings may be initiated.

If the spouses are divorced before the second anniversary of the date the alien spouse was granted conditional permanent resident status, and the parties cannot file Form I-751 jointly, waivers are available. The alien spouse may be granted the waiver by showing proof that the marriage was entered in good faith, and it would result in extreme hardship if the alien were deported. So if an alien spouse has been granted conditional permanent residence, don’t forget to remove your conditions!

Posted on September 29, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

At Kraft & Associates, we recently had an inquiry from a soldier who had just returned from Iraq. He had promised his Iraqi translator that he would try to help the translator gain entry into the United States.

We had to tell this good-hearted military man that the United States has been embarrassingly slow to admit any Iraqi citizens into our country, including those who risked their lives by helping our military. This year alone, Switzerland has accepted thousands of Iraqi refugees, while the United States has accepted only a few hundred, almost all of those in the past two months.

However, there may be something that can be done for these people. Depending on the exact situations and the eligibilities, they may be able to enter the U.S. as Special Immigrants. Translators for the U.S. Armed Forces may be eligible to enter the United States, and are protected under the National Defense Authorization Act.  To benefit from this act they must demonstrate the following:

  • National of Iraq or Afghanistan;
  • worked directly with U.S. Armed Forces as a translator for a period of at least 12 months;
  • obtained a favorable written recommendation from a general or flag officer in the chain of command;
  • cleared a background check and screening as determined by the general or flag officer before filing the petition; and
  • they are otherwise admissible except for 212(a)(4) (public charge)

They must file their petitions on form I-360.  The biggest hurdle to overcome is that there are only 50 visas available per year. Spouse and children may accompany or follow to join if the principal applicant is approved.

Posted on March 12, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

According to a story in the New York Times today, “A new federal rule intended to keep illegal immigrants from receiving Medicaid has instead shut out tens of thousands of United States citizens who have had difficulty complying with requirements to show birth certificates and other documents proving their citizenship, state officials say.” Other excerpts from the story:

Under a 2006 federal law, the Deficit Reduction Act, most people who say they are United States citizens and want Medicaid must provide “satisfactory documentary evidence of citizenship,” which could include a passport or the combination of a birth certificate and a driver’s license.

Some state officials say the Bush administration went beyond the law in some ways, for example, by requiring people to submit original documents or copies certified by the issuing agency.

The numbers alone do not prove that the decline in enrollment was caused by the new federal policy. But state officials see a cause-and-effect relationship. They say the decline began soon after they started enforcing the new rule. Moreover, they say, they have not seen a decline in enrollment among people who are exempt from the documentation requirement — for example, people who have qualified for Medicare and are also eligible for Medicaid.

Medicaid officials across the country report that some pregnant women are going without prenatal care and some parents are postponing checkups for their children while they hunt down birth certificates and other documents.

The principal authors of the 2006 law were Representatives Charlie Norwood and Nathan Deal, both Georgia Republicans. Mr. Norwood died last month.

Chris Riley, the chief of staff for Mr. Deal, said the new requirement did encounter “some bumps in the road” last year. But, he said, Mr. Deal believes that the requirement “has saved taxpayers money.” The congressman “will vigorously fight repeal of that provision” and will, in fact, try to extend it to the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Mr. Riley said. He added that the rule could be applied flexibly so it did not cause hardship for citizens.

In general, Medicaid is available only to United States citizens and certain “qualified aliens.” Until 2006, states had some discretion in deciding how to verify citizenship. Applicants had to declare in writing, under penalty of perjury, whether they were citizens. Most states required documents, like birth certificates, only if other evidence suggested that a person was falsely claiming to be a United States citizen.

In Virginia, health insurance for children has been a top priority for state officials, and the number of children on Medicaid increased steadily for several years. But since July, the number has declined by 13,300, to 373,800, according to Cindi B. Jones, chief deputy director of the Virginia Medicaid program.

“The federal rule closed the door on our ability to enroll people over the telephone and the Internet, wiping out a full year of progress in covering kids,” Ms. Jones said.

State and local agencies have adopted new procedures to handle and copy valuable documents. J. Ruth Kennedy, deputy director of the Medicaid program in Louisiana, said her agency had received hundreds of original driver’s licenses and passports in the mail.

Barry E. Nangle, the state registrar of vital statistics in Utah, said, “The new federal requirement has created a big demand for birth certificates by a group of people who are not exactly well placed to pay our fees.” States typically charge $10 to $30 for a certificate.

Posted on March 6, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

In July 2002, President George W. Bush signed an executive order specifying that foreign nationals who serve in the United States armed forces during a period of hostility would be eligible for expedited U.S. citizenship. The period of hostility began on September 11, 2001, and ends on a date that has yet to be specified by the President.

According to the White House, this executive order has allowed non-citizens to immediately become U.S. citizens. So far, more than 13,000 foreign-born members of the armed forces have applied for U.S. citizenship since the order took effect.

For those foreign nationals who are stationed overseas, the Immigration Services now allows naturalization ceremonies to be held at U.S. military bases, embassies, and consulates around the world. This makes it easier for the foreign-born military personnel to obtain their citizenship quickly.

Under current immigration laws, non-citizens must serve in the U.S. military for at least one year before they are eligible to apply for citizenship. This new executive order, however, will remove the three year service requirement. Additionally, the filing fees associated with an application for naturalization will be waived for those meeting the above-mentioned requirements.

A survey released in May 2006 indicated that there are more than 68,000 foreign-born serving in the armed forces, and this represents approximately 5% of the total on active duty.

Posted on February 2, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

On September 30, 2001, a Palestinian family, the Ibrahims, entered the U.S. on tourist and business visas. They were unable to return home, however, since that would require traveling through Israel and Jordan. This was impossible since their temporary Jordanian passports had expired and Israel does not allow Palestinians to return home through that country.

Unable to return home, the Ibrahims applied for asylum, but their case was denied. A deportation order was issued for them to return home. Once again, this was impossible for the Ibrahim family. The family members were then classified as “stateless,” which implies that they have no country to be deported to.

Three months ago, however, the family was arrested during a raid at their Richardson apartment by immigration enforcement officers. The arrest came over two years after the family’s request for asylum was denied. The family, which includes Salaheddin Ibrahim, his wife and four children, are now being held in a detention facility in Taylor, Texas. Mr. Ibrahim’s wife is also five months pregnant.

Much attention has been drawn to this case since four children, who range from the ages of five to fifteen, are also being detained. Lawyers who are working to help the Ibrahims, have taken action in federal district court so that the family may be released.

The lawyers representing the Ibrahim family contend that there is no justification for the detention of the family or the young children. The petition seeking their release notes that the children have been traumatized by being held in a jail like setting and are being deprived of education. The lawyers also argue that there is no basis for detention since the family does not pose a flight risk or a danger to the community.

Posted on January 14, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

For non-citizens, the immigration consequences of a criminal conviction may be far greater than any punishment of jail time, probation or a fine. For those non-citizens who are convicted of crimes, particularly those given state or federal prison sentences, Immigration Services will most likely begin proceedings to deport them from the United States. In many cases deportation will result regardless of the length of time in the United States, family ties in the United States, or even the severity of the crime committed.Based on a criminal conviction, a client might be subject to deportation, and in some cases be permanently barred from the United States. In other cases, criminal conduct may preclude a finding of good moral character under the Immigration and Nationality Act, which is a requirement for naturalization.In other situations, the immigration consequences of criminal activity can include delays in obtaining visas to the U.S. and denial of immigration benefits while in the United States.To complicate matters, the Immigration and Nationality Act has developed its own definition for what constitutes a “conviction.” For example, the definition of “conviction” includes a guilty plea or deferred adjudication. This ambiguity in the definition of conviction has led to attorneys erroneously advising their clients to accept deferred adjudication believing that this would not constitute a conviction under immigration law.

Deportation Issues

An alien with a criminal record may be barred from admission to the United States. In general, among others, crimes of moral turpitude, drug offenses, multiple offenses, and engaging in prostitution or procuring prostitutes within the past ten years will be considered as criminal grounds and can make the alien subject to being barred from future legal admission to the United States.Additionally, most drug offenses under the U.S. immigration laws may result in deportation from the United States, depending on the type of controlled substance involved. This includes violations of any law or regulation relating to a controlled substance, no matter whether the law is federal, state or foreign. These laws cover persons with a past conviction or admission of committing offenses. They may also include any person that a USCIS officer knows, or has reason to believe, is a drug trafficker.

Naturalization Issues

When applying for citizenship, it is necessary to show that the applicant has been a person of “good moral character” for the past five years. If there was any criminal conviction during this period, however, it is possible that the naturalization application will be denied.

Additionally, if a criminal conviction is brought to light while applying for naturalization, a person may be placed in removal proceedings. There is a wide variety of acts (some that do not even need to result in a criminal conviction) that will result in a person’s application for naturalization being denied.

For more information about immigration news, immigration laws, immigration policies, proposed immigration laws, border enforcement, green cards, citizenship, employment visas, family visas, naturalization, and other immigration subjects, please visit Immigration Law Answers and DFW Immigration Law Blog.

Posted on August 14, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

Professor Aristide Zolberg wrote an article, published this summer at Migration Information Source, and titled Rethinking the Last 200 Years of US Immigration Policy.

The article is an excellent review of our immigration policies dating back to the Colonial Period. I recommend reading the entire article, but will excerpt the concluding paragraphs here.

Although the 1965 law imposed limits on immigration from the Western Hemisphere, it was evident from the start that the United States did not possess the police capacity to prevent undocumented movement across its southern border. In addition, the creation of such a capacity would have required radical actions, notably the enlistment of private employers nationwide in immigration law enforcement.

Arguably, the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) did require employers to enforce immigration law by mandating that they hire only workers who could prove their legal status. This was the price liberals had to pay for securing their primary goal: the legalization of several million unauthorized residents, most of whom were from Mexico.

The employer verification component was essentially abandoned after IRCA passed, with unauthorized immigrants able to submit forged documents that employers accepted. Several attempts were made in the 1990s to devise effective strategies for controlling entry through the southern border, but none of those enacted to-date have succeeded in stopping unauthorized immigration; the matter remains on the national agenda.

While the principal political alignment remains that of the vocal cultural conservatives, who object to the changing character of American identity, against employers eager to insure a continued supply of cheap unskilled labor, the balance seems to be leaning toward maintenance of the messy but relatively liberal status quo. This is because, beginning in the 1970s, some unions changed their position on immigration once they realized that immigrants, legal and unauthorized, provided the most fertile source of replenishment for their depleting ranks, initially in the garment industry and subsequently in a variety of service occupations.

Moreover, Hispanics — currently the target of most restrictive efforts — are rapidly achieving significant political power and are therefore being courted in an unprecedented manner by both parties. Therefore, the “strange bedfellows” are likely to remain at center stage for the predictable future.