Sunday, July 9, 2017

Suggestions on personal safety with respect to transportation

The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty. (NIV)  Proverbs 27:12

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. (NIV) Matthew 10:16


By now you likely have heard about the incident involving Yingying Zhang. A visiting scholar at the University of Illinois, she disappeared in early June after being seen entering a car. Through the time of this writing she is still missing. However, the police have arrested a suspect.

This tragic matter underscores the importance of being careful about one’s safety. In this post, I will focus on two aspects of this topic: protecting oneself when hailing a taxi or using a ride service, and understanding the use of unmarked police cars.

Safety regarding taxis and ride services

Before entering a taxi that you have summoned, verify that the driver really is the driver. Generally speaking, a driver is required to post personal information for passengers, and such information most likely is behind the driver’s seat. It should include the name and photograph of the driver. A good idea would be to photograph this information. Consider also photographing the license number of the taxi. Be aware that in many states, taxis and other vehicles have both front and rear license plates. In others, such as Pennsylvania, however, they have only rear plates.

Having this information yourself, while better than nothing, is still of limited use. To more fully protect yourself, make sure someone else knows it, such as a friend, spouse or other person. Equally important: make sure the driver knows that someone else knows. Therefore, after you photograph the driver information sheet or the tax license plate, text the information to another person, but also call the person and let that person know, loudly enough so the driver can hear. While no guarantee of safety, doing so does reduce the chances that the driver might attempt anything improper. If anything were to happen to you, the driver knows that he or she would be the first person the police would contact.

The same general precautions apply if you are using a service such as Uber. In these cases, you may already know details about your ride, because the service may send it to your phone. In this case, you can either use any “share ride details” feature, or else capture the screen as a photo yourself and text it. If you are in a place where many drivers are likely to gather, such as a theater or concert hall at the end of a performance, make sure that the ride is really your ride. Even if the driver is genuine, selecting the wrong one may result in your going to an unknown or undesired destination.

Understanding the use of unmarked police cars

This information is useful if you are or will be driving. Most of not all local police departments use unmarked cars. Such cars look like regular cars—that is, they will not have conspicuous roof-mounted emergency lights, and also will not have special paint patterns or signage to indicate a police car. Although different states and local departments may have their own policies and regulations, here are some things to consider nonetheless:

-       Is the person wearing a uniform, or not
In Pennsylvania, police officers who drive unmarked cards must be in uniform. 37 Pa. Code § 42.21.  An officer also must carry identification to verify his or her identity unless doing so jeopardizes the officer’s safety due to work assignment, and shall produce it upon request. Id.

Other states may or may not have the same requirement. Or, in other states, different policies might exist depending on the county or municipality itself.

FYI I have observed, in New York City, unmarked police cars driven by plainclothes rather than uniformed officers. Either New York State or New York City have no equivalent regulation to that of Pennsylvania, or else the officers were disregarding it.

-       Type of emergency lights
The Pennsylvania vehicle code outlines the types of lights an unmarked police car MAY have. It does not, from what I saw, outline the types of lights it MUST have. However, I suspect that a genuine unmarked police car with its emergency lights on, whether in Pennsylvania or any other place, will resemble the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. Put another way: be wary of a car that has, for example, only a single light, be it red, blue or any other color.

In any case, if you have any concerns about whether a car is truly a police car, you could try calling 911. Then describe your situation and request a regular marked car to come.

The above information does not constitute legal advice and does not form an attorney-client privilege. This information is not guaranteed to produce any particular result.

Calvin Sun, Attorney at Law
610-296-3947, cell 215-983-3723

We Chat: calvin_t_sun

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

H-1B lottery: update on the "fat lady"

In a previous post, I explained the phrase "It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings." With respect to the H-1B lottery, only when you receive a blue sheet from USCIS, along with your original filing and uncashed filing fee checks will you be sure that you failed the lottery.

In fact, USCIS has cashed filing fee checks as late as May 17, more than one and half months after the filing period. I would not be surprised if even now other checks are cashed. In other words, you still might have a chance of being selected.

In a later post, I will explain the consequences of not being selected.

The above information is not legal advice and does not form an attorney-client relationship.

Calvin Sun, Attorney at Law
215-983-3723
csun@calvinsun.com
We Chat: calvin_t_sun


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

H-1B lottery: still waiting for the fat lady

The late American baseball player Yogi Berra used to say that "it ain't over 'til the fat lady sings." He meant that because baseball (unlike football, soccer, hockey or basketball) has no game clock, a team can never run out of time. Regardless of how far behind a team is, they still can win so long as they avoid making the third out of an inning. His mentioning a "fat lady" is a reference to opera, the ending of which is signified by a (usually female) opera singer's performance.

I mention this point because this morning, May 2, 2017, a client called me. She was happy because she learned that the H-1B filing fee checks of a co-worker had just been cashed.

Therefore, even though more than a month has passed since the H-1B filing period, one still could have been selected. If you are still waiting, you still might have a chance. For you, the fat lady might not have sung yet.

The above information does not constitute legal advice and does not form an attorney-client privilege.

Calvin Sun, Attorney at Law
215-983-3723
csun@calvinsun.com
We Chat: calvin_t_sun

Friday, April 28, 2017

H-1B lottery results: check cashing can precede mailing

If your employer filed an H-1B cap-subject petition for you at the beginning of April, you might still be unsure of whether or not you survived the lottery. The clearest indication, of course, is that your attorney or employer received the I-797 notice, which would contain your receipt number. However, that receipt can take awhile to arrive.

In many cases, a better indication is the cashing of your filing fee checks. For this reason, you might want to consider checking with your company's accounts payable people. In particular, the government might cash the checks before sending you the receipt.

You may be encouraged to know that some employers are still having those checks cashed. Yesterday, for example (April 27) one current F-1 student called to say that it happened with him and his employer. I was happy to hear this news, because I still had not received his receipt. I expect to get it in the next few days. In other words, the government can cash the filing fee checks before sending you the receipt.

Therefore, even if you haven't heard anything by now, you still could have been selected. It isn't over until your employer receives back your petition papers, along with the uncashed checks.

The above information does not constitute legal advice and does not form an attorney-client relationship.

Calvin Sun, Attorney at Law
610-296-3947, cell 215-983-3723
csun@calvinsun.com
We chat: calvin_t_sun

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

New green card format effective May 1, 2017

USCIS is changing the format of green cards effective May 1, 2017. See this link. The new format will contain features that make forgery more difficult.

Please remember that the use of fraudulent or false immigration documents is NOT COOL, and could prevent you from becoming a permanent resident or a U.S. citizen. It also could lead to your being prosecuted.

If you are holder of a "conditional" green card, which is good for only two years, you MUST apply in time to remove the conditions. Otherwise, you are subject to removal. Examples of conditional green cards are those based on a fewer-than-two-years-old marriage, as well as the initial EB-5 investment green card.

Text follows:

USCIS Will Issue Redesigned Green Cards and Employment Authorization Documents
Release Date:
       
WASHINGTON – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services today announced a redesign to the Permanent Resident Card (also known as a Green Card) and the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) as part of the Next Generation Secure Identification Document Project. USCIS will begin issuing the new cards on May 1, 2017.

These redesigns use enhanced graphics and fraud-resistant security features to create cards that are highly secure and more tamper-resistant than the ones currently in use.

The new card designs demonstrate USCIS’ commitment to continue taking a proactive approach against the threat of document tampering and fraud. They are also part of an ongoing effort between USCIS, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to enhance document security and deter counterfeiting and fraud.

The Redesigned Cards
The new Green Cards and EADs will:
  • Display the individual’s photos on both sides;
  • Show a unique graphic image and color palette:
    • Green Cards will have an image of the Statue of Liberty and a predominately green palette;
    • EAD cards will have an image of a bald eagle and a predominately red palette;
  • Have embedded holographic images; and
  • No longer display the individual’s signature.
Also, Green Cards will no longer have an optical stripe on the back.

How To Tell If Your Card Is Valid
Some Green Cards and EADs issued after May 1, 2017, may still display the existing design format as USCIS will continue using existing card stock until current supplies are depleted. Both the existing and the new Green Cards and EADs will remain valid until the expiration date shown on the card.

Certain EADs held by individuals with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and other designated categories have been automatically extended beyond the validity date on the card. For additional information on which EADs are covered, please visit the Temporary Protected Status and American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act web pages on uscis.gov.

Both versions are acceptable for Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, E-Verify, and Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE). Some older Green Cards do not have an expiration date.  These older Green Cards without an expiration date remain valid. Individuals who have Green Cards without an expiration date may want to consider applying for a replacement card bearing an expiration date. Obtaining the replacement card will reduce the likelihood of fraud or tampering if the card is ever lost or stolen.

Eligibility for Green Cards and EADs
For more information about the Green Card application process, please visit USCIS.gov/greencard.
To request an EAD, you must file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. Visit uscis.gov for more information about EADs.

The above information does not constitute legal advice and does not form an attorney-client relationship.

Calvin Sun, Attorney at Law
215-983-3723
csun@calvinsun.com
we chat: calvin_t_sun

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Many USCIS filing fees will increase on December 23, 2016


Just in time for Christmas, USCIS will be increasing many of its filing fees. https://www.uscis.gov/news/news-releases/uscis-announces-final-rule-adjusting-immigration-benefit-application-and-petition-fees. The increase is effective December 23, 2016. A complete schedule of affected forms is at https://www.uscis.gov/forms/our-fees.

In particular, the fee increases apply to, among others, forms I-129 (used in H-1B and other temporary worker filings), I-130 (petition for an alien relative e.g. a spouse of a U.S. citizen), I-485 (application to adjust status), I-751 (application to remove conditions on conditional residence) and I-765 (application for employment authorization). Note, however, the form I-907, for premium processing, is EXCLUDED from the fee increase. In order to avoid the increased fees, you must postmark or file any affected form prior to December 23.

If you are considering an early filing to avoid the fee increase, make sure that you are truly able to file early. For example, at this writing, an employer who wishes to file a cap-subject H-1B petition can do so only on or after April 1, 2017, and thus is unable to avoid the fee increase. In other words, an employer who filed such a petition prior to December 23 would receive a denial of that petition, because the cap is now full. Furthermore, make sure that any such early filing does not compromise the quality of your submission.

The above information does not constitute legal advice and does not form an attorney-client relationship.



Calvin Sun, Attorney at Law
Immigration and nationality law
175 Strafford Ave., Suite 1, Wayne PA 19087
Office 610-296-3947, cell 215-983-3723
Skype and We Chat: calvin_t_sun
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Monday, October 17, 2016

Are you using CPT as a bridge to the next H-1B filing?

Last year, I prepared an H-1B petition for a company that wanted to hire a woman, “Gloria” (not her real name of course) as a financial advisor. Unfortunately, that petition did not get selected in the lottery. Therefore, following the end of her optional practical training (OPT), Gloria enrolled in a local college that provided an immediate curricular practical training (CPT). She therefore was able to remain in lawful status until this year. At that time, in April of this year, I prepared another petition by this same company for Gloria, and asked for change of status processing. The petition was selected and later approved, and Gloria is now working at that company in H-1B status.

This strategy of using CPT as a “bridge” to the next H-1B filing is a common one. Doing so allows a person to remain in status in the U.S., to work or continue to work for an employer (for example, the same employer as during OPT) and thus spares the person the trouble and expense of leaving, then later re-entering the U.S. However, if you are doing so now or are considering doing so, please keep the following pointers in mind to avoid potential problems. You and others know about this idea, but so does the immigration service. Therefore, they could review a CPT-to-H-1B petition more carefully than an OPT-to-H-1B petition.

If the immigration service believes that you failed to maintain the condition of CPT, or believes that the CPT is invalid, then they could deny any change of status associated with an H-1B petition.

For this reason, I strongly suggest you consider the following points in connection with any plans for CPT.

·         Choose a reputable school

Be careful when you choose a school. In particular, you want to avoid a school that is similar to Tri-Valley University. That school’s founder was sentenced to federal prison on charges of immigration fraud. The school allegedly issued fraudulent I-20s to students but never had true requirements for admission or graduation. As a result of the shutdown of the school, many students faced removal from the United States. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tri-Valley_University

For this reason, thoroughly investigate any school you are considering for CPT. At a minimum, the school should be accredited by the respective regional accreditation agency for the school’s location. Here is a directory of such agencies: http://www.chea.org/Directories/regional.asp.  Of course, your investigation should include more than just confirming such accreditation. However, the lack of such accreditation by a school should make you pause before considering that school. Not surprisingly, Tri-Valley University lacked accreditation.

You also could check online reviews of the school, such as on Yelp, or talk with current or former students or with the school’s international student advisor(s).

·         Comply with the conditions of the school and respective courses

Just as with a “regular” F-1 program, make sure you comply with all conditions of the school and courses you are taking. Attend all classes and complete all your assignments. According to immigration regulations, you must be making “normal progress toward completing a course of study.” If the immigration service determines, while reviewing your H-1B petition, that you failed to make such progress, they could conclude that you failed to maintain your F-1 status.

·         Keep evidence of attendance

Make sure you have evidence that you attended classes, for example, a sign-in sheet for the class sessions for your course. In Gloria’s case, in addition, we submitted a statement from the person who drove her, and included dates, times and starting and ending places. We also included gasoline, restaurant receipts and credit card statement entries that corresponded with times she was attending classes. This evidence will help convince the immigration service that you did attend classes.

·         Consider consular processing as an alternative to change of status, if necessary

Let’s suppose that in fact you are approved for H-1B status as a result of your employer’s petition filing. While this news is great, it is not the end of the story. You probably want to receive your H-1B status while remaining in the U.S., that is, without having to leave the U.S. In other words, you want to have this H-1B status via a change of status from F-1 to H-1B.

Therefore, USCIS must make TWO decisions regarding your petition. First, they must decide if you are eligible to have H-1B status, based in large part on the complexity of your job and your qualifications. However, they also must decide if you are eligible to receive a change of status. Suppose, for example (God forbid) USCIS finds a problem with your CPT, or problems with your F-1 status in general. In this case, even though they might separately grant you H-1B status, they still would deny the change of status portion of your petition. The result would be a requirement that you leave the U.S. and return with an H-1B visa in order to have your H-1B status.

Furthermore, this denial of the change of status means that you are unlawfully present following the denial. In this case, you are best served by leaving the U.S as soon as possible. Otherwise, depending on your length of unlawful presence, you could be subject to a bar of up to 10 years on returning to the U.S. you most likely would be limited to only your home country as the place for getting your visa. You most likely would not, for example, go to Canada or Mexico for that visa, unless those countries were your home countries.

You can avoid the risk of being denied a request for change of status by simply not asking for it in the first place. In other words, rather than ask for a change of status for the processing of your H-1B petition, you instead request consular processing. Under this type of processing, you and your employer specify, on the petition, the embassy or consulate that USCIS should notify if and when they approve your petition. Following such approval, you would leave the U.S., go to that consulate or embassy, receive an H-1B visa stamp, then return to the U.S. using that visa.

By following these steps, you can increase the chances of changing status from F-1 CPT to H-1B.

The above information does not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.