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Brittany Lowe

Employment Immigration, Family Immigration, Fees, Naturalization

New Year, New Immigration Fees and Forms

Happy New Year and best wishes for 2017! A new year is a time for goals and resolutions, which may include applying for US citizenship, renewing a green card, or meeting with an attorney to discuss available immigration paths.

Applicants should be aware that USCIS is beginning the new year with recently updated fees and forms for almost all immigration cases.  Continue Reading

Asylum, EAD Work Permit

New 2 year work permit for Asylum Applicants

Asylum applicants, applying affirmatively with USCIS can wait years for their applications to process. During this wait time, an applicant can apply for an employment authorization document (EAD), also called a work permit using form I-765. In general, applicants can apply for the EAD once their affirmative asylum application has been pending with USCIS for at least 150 days. Although there is no fee to apply for the initial work permit, almost all applicants need to apply for at least one more work permit, and subsequent EAD applications do require a fee.

Although the processing time for work permits is supposed to be 90 days, USCIS sometimes processes outside of the 90 days. This can be difficult and frustrating for an applicant who may be required to stop working while awaiting their EAD renewal.

USCIS has put in place a new 2 year EAD that should help with some of these frustrations. Effective October 5, 2016, USCIS increased the validity period for both initial and renewal work permits to two years. The change applies to all I-765 applications with category (c)(8) that are pending on October 5th, or submitted on or after this date.


Children, Citizenship/Naturalization, Naturalization, Students

Students may apply for naturalization where they attend school

USCIS released a message earlier this month stating that eligible students can apply for naturalization in the state where they attend school, or in the state where their family lives as reflected in the USCIS Policy Manual.

Who is eligible? 
* Students 18 years of age or older who are applying for naturalization
* who attend educational institution in a different state from where their family lives
* and who are unmarried and financially dependent on their parents.
How does this benefit students?
Eligible students may apply for US Citizenship in the state where they attend school, rather than applying from their parent’s home state. This is helpful since the naturalization process takes months, and requires a biometrics appointment at the local USCIS office. Students who apply from the city where their University is located will not need to travel to their parents state to be fingerprinted, and to be interviewed by USCIS.
Adjustment of Status, Citizenship/Naturalization, Family Immigration, Green Card

US Citizenship based on marriage to a US Citizen?

Q: I’m a Canadian citizen married to a US citizen and I’ve never applied for adjustment of status or green card. Can I bypass the green card and apply for citizenship since I’ve been married and living in the USA for 5 years?

A: No, based on what you’ve described, you are not eligible to apply for citizenship. I think you may be confusing several regulations and procedures. A permanent resident (green card holder) is eligible to apply for citizenship after holding permanent resident (green card) status for about 3 years if she or he is married to a US citizen. However, since you do not have a green card, you would not be eligible to apply for citizenship. You’d need the green card (permanent resident status) first.

Continue Reading

DACA, DAPA, Family Immigration

DAPA and Expanded DACA Updates

The US Supreme Court’s decision on United States v. Texas is expected very soon. There are two main initiatives in dispute in this lawsuit regarding President Obama’s executive actions on immigration:

Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA), and   

Expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA expansion)  

What is the Court considering?

The Court is considering several main issues:

  1. Do states have standing to bring this lawsuit?
  2. Do expanded DACA and DAPA violate federal law or procedures with these initiatives?
  3. Do DAPA and expanded DACA violate the constitution?

Continue Reading

Employment Immigration, F-1, Family Immigration, OPT, Student Visa

OPT is almost finished, what’s next?

Q: I’m on an F-1 OPT visa right now after completing my master’s degree. My OPT finishes in August and I’d like to stay longer. What options would I have?

A:Congratulations on completing your master’s degree, and I hope your OPT internship is going well.

Yes, this is a common situation for F-1 students. As you are likely aware, it does not sound like you would be eligible for a STEM OPT extension, even if you have stem-based OPT since your current program is not valid for an additional 150 days. You may have a few options, though.  Continue Reading
Employment Immigration, H-1b

H-1b cap completed for 2017

236,000 apply for H-1b visas, about 1 in 3 will be approved

On April 7th, 2016, USCIS announced it had completed the H-1b cap random selection process. The H-1b visa allows certain foreign national workers holding a bachelor’s or higher-level degree or  to be temporarily employed in the US. Employers apply for the visa on behalf of foreign national employees, and the visa allows the employee to work for that employer.

H-1b visas are capped at 65,000 plus an additional 20,000 for applicants with US master’s degrees. As the number of applicants usually exceeds 85,000, USCIS uses a lottery system to select petitions to approve. This year USCIS received 236,000 applications for H-1b visas, so only about 1 in 3 will be approved. The number of applicants only increased a small amount from last year, as shown in the table below. Continue Reading

Citizenship/Naturalization, Family Immigration

If I apply now for US Citizenship will I be able to vote in November 2016 election?

Q: If I apply now for US Citizenship will I be able to vote in the November 2016 election?


Seattle, WA

If you live in Seattle, the answer is most likely yes! Most recently, applications for naturalization (N-400) has been taking about 5 months to process. There is probably time to apply, have the naturalization interview and ceremony in time to register for November 2016 elections.


Other cities

To get a general idea on the processing time for your area, check USCIS Processing Time, select your city’s field office, and check the date listed by N-400. Using Seattle, WA as an example, the chart shows that May 2015 applications were being processed in December 2015. The wait in December was about 7 months, but this wait has shortened recently to closer to 5 months as Seattle has recently added new Officers. Check with a local immigration attorney to get a more specific idea of processing times.


Apply right away

It is best to apply as soon as possible. Processing times are subject to change over time. Also, you may need to respond to a request for evidence from USCIS, which increases processing time.

This may be a popular time to apply for citizenship, with the contentious upcoming election. The New York Times reported today that many Latinos are seeking citizenship in order to vote against a particular candidate. Further, as the article points out, 8.8 million legal residents are eligible to naturalize right now.



Asylum, EAD Work Permit, F-1, Student Visa, TPS

Can an F-1 student apply for asylum?

Q: I’m currently on an F-1 student visa studying in the US. I am afraid to go back to my home country. Can I apply for asylum?


A: Yes, immigrants present in the US may apply for asylum, as long as they have a true non-frivolous claim. Although applicants generally need to apply during their first year in the US, there are some exceptions, including maintaining another lawful immigration status (like your F-1 status.) However, you should still apply as soon as possible.

TPS: Some countries have been designated for Temporary protected Status, or TPS. You should check the list of current TPS countries, and talk with your international student advisor or an immigration attorney about this option as well.

Asylum: Asylum is not just based on being afraid. Your situation/fears need to meet 3 specific criteria, and need to be reasonable. For example, as part of the application, you would provide reports to show that harm you suffered, or are afraid of suffering is reasonable for your country. I’ll outline the general  3 criteria below: Continue Reading