Monthly Archives: February 2016

How the new Visa Waiver program rules will affect my Wedding

Iraqi passports, military documents and

Iraqi passports, military documents and Iraqi-Palestinian travel documents are sold in a street market in Baghdad, 11 June 2003. US Iraq overseer Paul Bremer set his sights on tackling Iraq’s chronic… Get premium, high resolution news photos at Getty Images

How the new Visa Waiver Program Rules will affect my Wedding

By Sam R. Saif

This year, I am getting married to an Iraqi-American. As an Iraqi-American myself, I have many close family members living all around the world. You can imagine that after the Gulf War, and then later the 2003 Iraq War, many people fled Iraq in search of a better, more stable life. That’s what my family and my Fiancée’s family did. The nice thing about our families is that they are willing to come from all parts of the world (i.e. Australia, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, England, Canada, and the list goes on) to get together to celebrate our wedding. However, many of them do not know that it will not be an easy process for them to come to the US as visitors.

Most of the countries listed above are Visa Waiver Program participant countries. That means that it would usually be very easy for them, as citizens of those countries, to travel to the United States. They would simply complete a short application online, receive an approval, and take that approval to any airline to get on a plane to the US. However, the new VWP rules require that those with dual nationality of VWP countries and four other countries – Iraq, Iran, Sudan, and Syria – must apply for a B1/B2 visitor visa. Applying for a B1/B2 visa means that they must go through a more complex and stringent process. There are other new rules to the VWP, but we will just focus on the one just mentioned.

These are the general steps and issues with applying for a B-1/B-2 nonimmigrant visitor visa:

  1. Complete a long and complicated DS-160 application online;
  2. Pay the $160 application fee;
  3. Gather the required documentation, including:
    • Passport that is valid for travel to the US – Valid for at least 6 months
    • Non-immigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 confirmation page
    • Application fee payment receipt
    • Passport photos (Usually uploaded while completing the online DS-160 form)
    • Documents establishing the individual is qualified for the B1/B2 nonimmigrant visa:

a) Showing the purpose of the trip;

b) That the individual intends to depart the US after the trip;

c) The individual’s ability to pay all costs of the trip;

d) Otherwise not inadmissible (ineligible) from entering the US;

e) Mainly, an individual must show ties to their home country such that they can convince a consular officer that they are in fact planning on returning to that country upon completion of the purpose of the trip.

  1. Schedule and attend an appointment to have fingerprints and photo taken with the Visa Application Center;
  2. Schedule and attend an Interview at the US consulate/embassy:
    • The consular officer will review the application and necessary documents and will make a determination whether the individual is eligible for the visa.
    • The consular officer has wide discretion to approve or deny an application.

Instead of just filing a short application online, getting an approval within minutes, and easily traveling to the US, my family members must now apply for a B-1/B-2 visa simply because they are still Iraqi citizens. Most of them arrived to their respective countries as refugees, fleeing the violence in Iraq. Most, if not all, have not been to Iraq in decades. They also no longer have any ties to Iraq since all of their family members and friends have traveled to other countries and sought asylum. They are simply coming to the US temporarily to attend my wedding. Yet, they are being singled out for being Iraqi citizens.

Not all of our family members are necessarily willing to go through the expense and stringent process of applying for a B-1/B-2 non-immigrant visa. And should one of them be unable to produce documentation showing strong ties to his/her resident country (no bank account, no school, temporary jobs, not married, no children, etc.) he/she will have a much more difficult time overcoming the presumption that he/she intends to depart the US after fulfilling the purpose of the trip.

For more information on the new VWP rules, please follow these links: visitors.html?_r=0

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How Scalia’s Death Could Affect Major Supreme Court Cases in 2016

With the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia this week, the balance of the Supreme Court has shifted, which may have serious implications for cases set to be heard in the upcoming term. There is an important immigration case, United States v. Texas, of particular interest. To learn more about how the Supreme Court decisions in 2016 might be effected, read the entire article from The New York Times below. To learn more about the legal arguments at stake in United States v. Texas, we also recommend this “in plain English” analysis from ScotusBlog.

How Scalia’s Death Could Affect Major Supreme Court Cases in the 2015-16 Term

Sotomayor Kagan Ginsburg Breyer Kennedy Roberts Alito Thomas Scalia In Hurst v. Florida, the court struck down an aspect of Florida’s capital punishment system, in which the state allowed nonunanimous juries to recommend death sentences and left the final sentencing to a judge, saying it did not give jurors a sufficient role in deciding whether defendants should be put to death.

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You might qualify for DACA

Are You Eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Immigration Program (DACA)?

You might qualify for DACA

You might qualify for DACA if… (please click on image to enlarge)

Are You Eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Immigration Program (DACA)?

By: Sam R. Saif

DACA is an immigration program allowing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to exercise prosecutorial discretion to ensure that enforcement resources are not expended on low priority cases. Individuals who came to the United States as children, and who meet specific requirements are considered to be low priority cases. Those who meet the guidelines listed below may be eligible for DACA for a period of two years, subject to renewal for a period of two years. Note there is no guarantee that this program will be available for subsequent renewal periods.

An individual who is granted DACA status may be eligible for employment authorization. This individual may also be eligible for Advance Parole, a document which allows the recipient one-time permission to travel outside of the United States for urgent or humanitarian circumstances.  A request for DACA will be granted on a case-by-case basis and is solely within the discretion of DHS.

An individual may be eligible for DACA if he/she:

  1. Was under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
  2. Came to the United States before reaching his/her 16th birthday;
  3. Has continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time;
  4. Was physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making his/her request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS;
  5. Had no lawful status on June 15, 2012, meaning that:
  6. He/She never had a lawful immigration status on or before June 15, 2012, or
  7. Any lawful immigration status or parole that he/she obtained prior to June 15, 2012, had expired as of June 15, 2012.
  8. Is currently in school, has graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, has obtained a General Educational Development (GED) certificate, or is an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
  9. Has not been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor (including criminal convictions involving driving while intoxicated or impaired), three or more other misdemeanors, and does not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

Our firm is ready to help determine individual eligibility and to assist individuals eligible for DACA apply. We have highly experienced attorneys and staff to provide personalized, affordable and results oriented legal service. If you or someone you know may be eligible for DACA, or wish to renew their DACA status, please contact our office to schedule a consultation. Remember, individuals eligible for DACA may be eligible to apply now.


The announced Expanded DACA program is on hold by court order, however, this does not affect individuals who are eligible for the original DACA program.

For more information on the status of Expanded DACA and the DAPA programs, please see the following links:


Disclaimer: The information provided here is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed to be indefinitely up to date. This information is of a general nature and is not intended to apply to any specific or particular circumstance.

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Infographic: An overview of the H-1B quota process (FY2017)

An overview of the H-1B Quota Process. (Click on the image above to enlarge.)

An Overview of the H-1B Quota Process

H-1B quota season for Fiscal Year 2017 is coming quickly—since cases must be filed by April 1, 2016.  We anticipate a very busy quota season.

In order to file an H-1B case, the position must normally require a Bachelor’s degree or its US equivalent, and the person being sponsored must have the equivalent (including a combination of education and experience) of a US Bachelor’s degree.

Your cases will need full project information and supporting documentation for filing. All filings for the Fiscal Year 2017 H-1B quota have to be received by USCIS in the first week of April, for a position starting on October 1, 2016.

USCIS will likely accept cases under the quota over a range of days this year, as they have in years past, (Usually the first five business days of April).  Once that range is defined, cases received by USCIS during that range are treated equally for purposes of inclusion and selection under the lottery – there is no advantage to filing on the first day, once a multiple-day range for case acceptance has been defined.  Accordingly, we file all cases on a first-in first-out basis.

After the last day for accepting the cases for inclusion in the selection process has passed, USCIS begins selecting cases. Again, cases received by USCIS during the acceptance period are treated equally for purposes of inclusion and selection under the lottery. Once the cases have been picked, USCIS sends receipt notices for them, and cashes the filing fee checks. USCIS does not cash your fee checks on cases not accepted under the quota, and starts returning the case documents and checks.

Once cases have been picked up, USCIS starts processing them. It means one of the following three things can happen; USCIS issues an approval, or USCIS denies the case; finally USCIS can also issue an RFE, which is request for additional evidence to establish eligibility for petition approval. USCIS suspends processing on cases it has sent out RFEs for till it receives the additional information it has requested, or the last day to submit additional information has passed. USCIS will either approve or deny a petition based on this additional evidence.

After USCIS approves a petition, it sends out an approval notice. The approval notice in itself does not grant the beneficiary admittance into the United States or authorization to work in the United States. The beneficiary has to make an appointment at a United States consulate in her/his country of residence to get a H-1B Visa. The wait time for visa appointments can be found here.

For H-1B visas approved for Fiscal Year 2017, the earliest an employee can start working is October 1, 2016. Also, H-4 petitions for dependents can be filed after the case has been picked up in the lottery.

In order to start a quota case, please send documents to our quota intake email

Disclaimer: The information provided here is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed to be indefinitely up to date. This information is of a general nature and is not intended to apply to any specific or particular circumstance.

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