Do Not Let Your International Travel Jeopardize Your Immigration Status

If you are scheduled to travel to the US, please be advised that yesterday the CDC issued an Order requiring all air passengers arriving to the US from a foreign country to get tested no more than 3 days before their flight! You will need to provide proof of the negative result or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 to the airline before boarding the flight. This Order will go into effect on January 26, 2021.

Important! Remember!

If you or someone you know are travelling internationally, and are awaiting your final interview at USCIS, please remember that you will not be able to enter a USCIS field office without first having been in the U.S. for a minimum of 14 days!

USCIS field offices are automatically cancelling scheduled any final interview for anyone who has been outside the U.S. within 14 days prior to it.

USCIS is using its own information to track if you have been outside of the U.S. We caution you to schedule your international travel accordingly.

As always, we are here to help. If you have any questions or need assistance with any of these new developments, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Image credit: “A Trio of Surgical Masks” by Wootang01 is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

January Tech Corner

Immigration Solo Practice and Software Challenges

I am an immigration lawyer who has solved visa issues for clients for more than 30 years. This January as it is the start of a new and hopefully much better year worldwide, I would like to share some of my views and experiences in the field of technology and law in an effort to assist other lawyers or human resource professionals who might be and looking for solutions in the field of global immigration law or transitioning from office to remote and paperless offices.

I have seen the practice of immigration law in Miami and other cities and at the same time legal technology and software options evolve dramatically over the years. When I began working for an immigration firm in Miami in the late 80’s, believe it or not, as associates, secretaries were assigned to us, but we did not even use computers at that time! Shared secretaries would prepare immigration forms using typewriters. Often the secretaries would be tasked with countless time-consuming corrections. Once completed, we would ask them to call the clients to come into the office and review and sign the forms personally.  Finally, when the forms and casework were completed, I and other young and eager associates met in attorneys Larry Rifkin’s and Michael Shane’s offices.  They gave us appointments to file our cases in person that week or the following on behalf of our clients at the Miami District office at 7880 Biscayne Blvd. We relied then more on individuals than on technology.   Now, clients can enter their information easily in our firm portal, reducing errors and saving time and personnel costs, and many processes can be automated.

As Miami immigration attorneys in the 80’s and 90’s we constantly traveled in pairs to the centralized immigration office with enormous files to meet personally with government adjudicating officers who would render decisions on our clients’ cases on the spot! We waited in long lines circling the building just like the general public was forced to do until the building was finally condemned and immigration was decentralized into 5 locations with free parking. 

In person filings included family and business petitions, included famous actors and models, employment-based investors, intra-company transfers and family and business-based residence cases.  A denial would usually mean we would have to return the following week with additional information and resubmit an application.  Following the interview, we would rush back to the office with the approval notices in hand to happily submit to our clients for payment. Personal relationships with other attorneys and immigration officers were nurtured and encouraged. 

The decentralization of immigration and its shift to remote, paper-based filings for all operations created challenges in modernizing information technology across the board, especially with the government itself ( Software companies emerged to serve the market. For example, in 1998, according to its website, Tracker Corp was used by approximately 75% of top-rated immigration law firms and many Fortune 1000 companies, hospitals and universities and was at the time a desk-top based product.   There were others available and some attorneys created their own proprietary software.  I started using a desk-top version of Tracker and began training.

It was essential then to have an in-house tech, such as Scott Booth of South Computers, manually update the ever-changing immigration forms provided by Tracker and back up the systems on site and off site monthly at a minimum.  Then, about 10 years later, the company began providing cloud-based services with automated program and forms updates, so theoretically we no longer needed to use our tech for this type of maintenance.   Now, my former tech has retired, I have a new tech who doesn’t really understand immigration forms and software like my old tech did after years of service, and the company has been acquired by Mitratech, a large company with more than 30 years in the market, which does not mention even tracker on its portal  

I will continue to evaluate and research competitors.  I have personally tested Clio, Practie Panther, Law Logix, INS Zoom, Docketwise and Cerenade, among others, concluded it is best to remain with my current immigration forms provider add another case management and billing program, as the perfect solution may not yet exist.  My immediate concerns though involve wondering whether the company will remain responsive and continue to emphasize excellent tech support as it has in the past with Lina Ordonez and Ben Gigli and whether it will ever end integrate successfully with a billing program such as QuickBooks or something even more tailored.  I must conclude that the main reason I have remained loyal to this provider is that the customer support has been excellent over the years and has exceeded my expectations. 

Update – Citizenship Changes

Applicants for naturalization filing after December 1, 2020 will be required to take the 2020 version of the civics test. They will need to study 128 questions about American government and history. 

The naturalization test has two parts: an English and civics test. The English portion has not changed. In fact, the officer will read through your application with you in the office to confirm that all of your answers are correct and that there have been no changes since you filed.  You have the opportunity to add and correct information at the interview.

With the 2020 version of the civics test, the USCIS officer will ask you to answer 20 out of the 128 civics test questions which can be viewed here: in English.  There is even an audio version!  You must answer at least 12 questions correctly to pass the 2020 version of the civics test. All questions on the test are asked orally.

There are no changes to the English portion of the naturalization test. You must demonstrate an understanding of the English language, including the ability to read, write, and speak basic English.  

As always, should you need assistance with your immigration matter, we are only one phone call away! You can also chat with an assistant 24/7 by using the chat icon on the bottom-right of the page.

Or you can leave us a longer message if you wish, on our Contact page

Dramatic Reversal on DACA

A federal judge has reversed the Trump administration’s restrictive rule on the DACA program. This Obama administration legislation protected undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children from deportation.

“#DACA for #Dreamers Unidos soñamos #dreamact #cir #immigrationreform #cirnow #immigration” by Steve Rhodes is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

According to N.P.R., yesterday “Judge Nicholas Garaufis of the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn instructed the Department of Homeland Security to begin accepting new applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program as soon as Monday”

Court documents state that DHS has until Monday to post a public notice “displayed prominently on its website and on the websites of all other relevant agencies, that it is accepting first-time requests for consideration of deferred action under DACA.”

Approximately 640,000 undocumented young immigrants are protected under DACA. As of this July, due to restrictions imposed by the Trump administration on this Obama-era program, about 300,000 young people from other countries living in the U.S. were ready to apply This new decision effectively green lights the process for them.

Read more about this at NPR’s web site.

USCIS Announces a Revised Naturalization Civics Test

WASHINGTON — U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced today plans to implement a revised version of the naturalization civics test. The agency first announced plans to revise the civics test in July 2019.

USCIS revised the civics test as part of a decennial update to ensure that it remains an instrument that comprehensively assesses applicants’ knowledge of American history, government and civic values.

The civics test is administered to applicants who apply for U.S. citizenship and is one of the statutory requirements for naturalizing. Applicants who apply for naturalization on or after Dec. 1, 2020, will take the updated version of the test. Those who apply before Dec. 1, 2020, will take the current version of the test.

“USCIS has diligently worked on revising the naturalization test since 2018, relying on input from experts in the field of adult education to ensure that this process is fair and transparent,” said USCIS Deputy Director for Policy Joseph Edlow. “Naturalization allows immigrants to become fully vested members of American society, with the same rights and responsibilities as citizens by birth, and offering a fair test, which prepares naturalization applicants for these responsibilities, is of upmost importance to our agency.”

The revised test includes more questions that test the applicant’s understanding of U.S. history and civics, in line with the statutory requirements, and covers a variety of topics that provide the applicant with more opportunities to learn about the United States as part of the test preparation process. The revised test will not change the passing score, which will remain at 60%. Candidates must answer 12 questions correctly, out of 20 in order to pass.

USCIS will maintain the current guidelines for statutorily established special considerations for applicants who are 65 years old or older and have at least 20 years of lawful permanent resident status. These applicants will be asked 10 questions and must answer a minimum of six questions correctly in order to pass.

The test items and study guides can be found on the Citizenship Resource Center on the USCIS website. USCIS has also updated the USCIS Policy Manual (PDF, 323.82 KB) accordingly; see Volume 12, Part E, English and Civics Testing and Exceptions, Chapter 2, English and Civics Testing.

USCIS piloted the test with community-based organizations and volunteers across the country in summer 2020. The data collected from this pilot was used to help USCIS make determinations about the language and grammatical structure of individual test items, linguistic and cognitive weights assigned to each test item, and to identify those items appropriate for applicants who are 65 years or older, have held lawful permanent resident status for at least 20 years and are granted special consideration by statute.