Monday, October 5, 2015

Diversity Visa Lottery Now Open

Each year the Department of State conducts a lottery for visas (green cards) for nationals of certain countries with the aim of making the United States more diverse.  Applicants can enter the lottery for free on the Department of State's website,  Only applicants who are born in  certain countries qualify to enter the lottery. 

If an applicant born in a qualifying country applies, he/she must be truthful on his/her application, which means listing all spouses and children.  Additionally, an applicant will have to show that he/she has graduated high school or works in profession that requires at least a Bachelor's degree (or foreign equivalent).

Interested applicants can apply now.  The deadline to submit an application is 12pm EST on November 3, 2015.  Those applicants who are selected will be notified of their selection in the Spring of 2016, and will be eligible to receive their green cards by September 30, 2017.

Again, there is no fee to enter the lottery, and all selections are made by the Department of State, which notifies applicants directly.  Similarly, upon notification, the Department of State does not immediately request fees, but rather provides instructions for further payment and application requirements. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

USCIS Makes it Easier to Submit Applications for Naturalization

In an effort to make applying for US Citizenship easier for eligible lawful permanent residents, the US Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS) announced on Thursday, among other items, that they will begin to accept credit card payment for N-400, Applications for Naturalization. The current fee for the application is $680.00, which includes the application filing fee and biometrics (fingerprint) fee.  USCIS has advised that the fee can be paid using only one method (i.e., applicants cannot pay part of the fee by check, and part by credit card).  This change is certainly welcome, and should assist many lawful permanent residents who are eligible to apply for US Citizenship before the next presidential election.

Friday, January 30, 2015

What Expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Means

Part of President Obama's Executive Actions announced in November included expanding deferred action to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the US before the age of 16.  When he first announced the program in 2012, only those immigrants who were under 32 could apply.  The President's announcement in November removed that requirement.

Today, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it would begin accepting such applications for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) on February 18, 2015; and no earlier (

While the expansion of the DACA program will certainly help additional individuals who may not have previously qualified due to age restrictions, there are still groups of individuals who will not be eligible to request deferred action under the program.  The requirement that an applicant enter the US prior to the age of 16 still remains; thus individuals who were 16 or older when they entered do not qualify.

Further, the requirement that an applicant was physically present in the US on June 15, 2012 and that he/she was out of status on that day has not changed.  This means that individuals who otherwise qualify for DACA, but who were in valid status on June 15, 2012 and fell out of status after that date are not eligible for this expanded DACA.

Although expanding DACA certainly increases the number of individuals eligible for deferred action, it should not be viewed as encouraging other individuals to enter unlawfully or overstay their visas.  The program will not benefit recent arrivals who were not present and out of status in the US on June 15, 2012.

The specific requirements to qualify for expanded DACA, as explained by USCIS,  require applicants to show the following:

- They entered the US prior to the age of 16
- They have lived continuously in the US since January 1, 2010
- They have been physically present in the US on June 15, 2012.
- They had no lawful status on June 15, 2012.
- They are in the US at the time of filing for DACA.
- They are currently in school, have graduated, or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the US; AND
- They have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors; and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.