Spouse Petitions: Marriage Involving Minors

a married couple, immigration lawyer chicagoPeople in Illinois who are filing spousal petitions for their foreign national minors spouses need to understand the guidelines from USCIS for marriages involving minors. The U.S. Customs and Immigration Service directs adjudicators to pay special attention to marriages that involve minors when they are considering spousal petitions. While there is not a minimum age that is defined under the law, other factors may be important when determining whether a petition will be granted or denied.

Spousal Petition Guidelines for Marriages Involving Minors

The USCIS issues guidance to adjudicators who determine whether petitions for visas should be granted or denied. The agency issued new guidance about marriages involving minors on Feb. 15 as an update to the USCIS Adjudicator’s Field Manual. This new guidance discusses age requirements for people who are filing affidavits of support for their spouses and it also offers some added guidelines for marriages that involve minors.

Factors to be Considered

The USCIS will look at whether the age of the minor was too young under the law where the marriage took place. The USCIS will also look at whether the age of the minor and the marriage violates the law in the state in which the couple plans to live. Some states allow marriages to minors if there is parental consent, if the minor is pregnant, if the minor is emancipated, or if there is a judicial order. However, other states do not.

The strengthened guidelines direct adjudicators to pay special attention to marriages involving minors. They are directed to look closely at several factors, including the following:

  • If the marriage was legal and recognized in the place where it occurred
  • If the marriage is legal in the state in which the couple plans to reside or is currently residing
  • If the marriage is bona fide
  • If the minor gave full and free consent to get married without coercion by another

In addition, the person who files the affidavit of support and petition on behalf of the minor spouse must be a minimum of 18 years old.

People who are uncertain about whether their marriages meet the guidelines might want to learn more about the process and try to correct any problems before they file their petitions. This might increase the chances that their petitions will be approved.

USCIS Grants: Here’s What You Should Know

financial support, Chicago immigration lawyerIn July 2018, the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service announced a grant program that would offer up to $10 million in funding to agencies that help lawful permanent residents prepare for their naturalization petitions. The program may help Illinois residents who want to apply to become naturalized citizens prepare for their interviews, tests, and other aspects of the naturalization process. The funds will be available to agencies, not individual applicants. The program could help residents have a greater chance to succeed in their petitions for naturalization.

Grant Program From the USCIS

The USCIS announced that it would use fees it has collected to offer a number of grants totaling up to $10 million through its Citizenship and Assimilation Grant Program. The money will be available to pro-immigrant organizations that help immigrants prepare for the naturalization process and provide them with help in learning civics, English, and U.S. history. The grants will be offered in two categories.

The first category of grants will be given to 36 agencies that help immigrants by offering services for naturalization applications as well as education to help them with the U.S. history, civics, and English portions of the naturalization test. The second category of grants will go to four agencies that help immigrants who originally entered the U.S. as refugees prepare for naturalization. Grants in the second category will go to agencies that work to help refugees develop the skills and knowledge they will need to become U.S. citizens.

In the fiscal year 2018, USCIS announced that it had awarded $9.425 million in grants to 40 agencies across the U.S. that provide services to lawful permanent residents to prepare for naturalization. The agencies and organizations that received the grants will be funded through the program through 2020.

The Citizenship and Assimilation Grant Program has offered grants to organizations that serve immigrants since it was established in 2009. Through the program, USCIS has awarded 393 grants totaling $82 million to agencies located in 38 U.S. states.

Agencies that might be interested in applying for grants through the program should be aware that the process is competitive. They might want to begin preparing their grant applications and watch for information about deadlines for the next funding round.

How a Government Shutdown Impacts Immigration Services

city hall, immigration lawyer chicagoWhile the government shutdown ended on Jan. 25, its impact on immigration courts will be felt for months as the backlog was substantially increased. During the shutdown, scheduled immigration hearings were canceled, which means that those people will now have to potentially wait for months or years to be rescheduled. The immigration court system already had a backlog of cases waiting for hearings for a year or longer before the shutdown. With the shortage of immigration judges, the backlog can now be expected to drag on even longer.

Impact During the Shutdown

President Trump shut down the government in Dec. 2018 because of an impasse between his administration and Congress over funding for his proposed border wall. While Congress had negotiated an agreement that would have provided some funding for the border wall, Trump refused to sign it, leading to the shutdown. The shutdown was the longest in U.S. history, lasting for 35 days and resulting in many vital services, including the immigration courts, to be closed. This meant people whose immigration hearings were scheduled during the shutdown had their hearings canceled since the courts were closed.

Ongoing Impact of the Shutdown

While the government was reopened after the shutdown ended on Jan.25, the impact of the shutdown on the immigration system continues. When hearings are canceled, immigration courts reschedule them to the next available hearing dates. People whose hearings were canceled will effectively be placed at the back of the line and wait for a year or longer. People whose hearings involved deportation proceedings run the risk of getting deported before their new hearings are held. They can request a cancellation of removal if deportation would result in extreme hardship to a U.S. citizen child or spouse.

Other immigrants who were waiting on naturalization hearings may have to wait much longer to become citizens. Some also are waiting on hearings on their petitions for permanent resident status. People who are seeking asylum so they can bring their family members to the U.S. to escape dangerous situations in their home countries face especially perilous situations. The only group that may not see much of a delay are immigrants who are detained because their cases are prioritized over others. People whose cases are relatively weak may benefit from the impact of the shutdown.

Immigration in 2019: Here’s What to Expect

An American Flag, Immigration LawyerThe Trump Administration’s policies are likely to impact legal immigration applications for H-1B visas, family-based visas, and other types of visas in Illinois in 2019. The Administration has enacted a number of punitive measures regarding deportations and undocumented immigration. However, several changes are also likely to have a negative impact on legal immigration, making it more difficult for people to immigrate lawfully to the U.S. Here are some of the impacts that can be anticipated in 2019.

H-1B Visa Applicants

Kirstjen Nielsen, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, indicated in testimony before Congress on Dec. 20, 2018, that the Trump Administration would continue to view highly-skilled H-1B visa holders and their employers with suspicion in 2019. There has been an increase in denials of H-1B visa applications and an increase in the amount of time that it takes to process applications, leaving many workers to fear trying to change jobs.

Some workers who apply for H-1B visas based on their new jobs may run out of time before their applications are processed, meaning that their H-1B visas could expire before they receive decisions. Part of the reason for the increased processing time is that the USCIS director, Frank Cissna, announced in 2017 that adjudicators are no longer supposed to defer to previous determinations. There are also proposed regulations that would limit who qualifies for specialty occupations and how the employer-employee relationship is defined. Another regulation would require pre-registration of potential H-1B visa applications and selection through a lottery.

Family-Based and Other Visas

Some changes could impact people who apply for family-based immigration visas as well as other types of visas. One change is that the USCIS has implemented a policy that adjudicators no longer have to send requests for evidence or notices of intent to deny before denying applications. Previously, adjudicators would send these notices to applicants whose applications were incomplete or contained errors. Applicants and their attorneys would then be given time to supplement the applications with evidence supporting the basis for them. Adjudicators can now simply deny applications without giving applicants the ability to correct or to supplement them. This means that making mistakes on an application could result in a denial followed by deportation and removal proceedings.

Legal immigration will likely continue to face obstacles. It is important for employers and applicants to take care with their applications so that they can increase their chances of approval.

What You Should Know about Expedited Removal

the border of America, immigrationThe expedited removal process gives immigration officers nearly unchecked power to deport certain immigrants that they encounter within 100 miles of the border with Canada or Mexico if the immigrants have been in the U.S. for fewer than 14 days. The number of people who have been deported through expedited removal has soared since it was first passed by Congress. Since Trump encouraged Immigration and Customs Enforcement to use it even more the numbers are likely to climb higher.

What Is Expedited Removal?

Expedited removal is a process that was first introduced in 1996. It allows low-level immigration officers to deport certain immigrants without giving them any due process protections such as a hearing before an immigration law judge. The officers are able to question undocumented immigrants that they encounter within 100 miles of the border. If the officers determine that they have entered the country illegally and have been in the U.S. for fewer than 14 days, they can immediately deport them. The immigrants are detained until they are deported and do not have access to lawyers.

Why Expedited Removal Is a Problem

Expedited removal is a problem for multiple reasons. The immigration officers may fail to refer asylum seekers to asylum officers and may send them back to danger in their home countries. There have also been cases in which lawful permanent residents and U.S. citizens have been erroneously deported. Some undocumented immigrants may have valid claims to remain in the U.S. that they are unaware that they have such as being the victim of a crime or a witness to a crime.

Some immigration officers have reportedly pressured undocumented immigrants into agreeing to expedited removal. The people may not be able to contact attorneys or family members.

Expanding Use of Expedited Removals

The use of expedited removals had expanded dramatically even before Trump took office. In 2013, which is the most recent year for which data is available, 193,000 people were deported under the expedited removal process. This was 44 percent of the total number of people who were deported during that year. With the Trump Administration’s hardline immigration stance, it is likely that the numbers have climbed even higher. It is likely that many people who have asylum claims or other claims to remain have been deported without ever having the chance to present them to the courts.