Getting a work permit as an asylum applicant

As an asylum applicant in the United States, you may be eligible to apply for a work permit known as the Employment Authorization Documents (EADs). Before 1994, asylum seekers were able to receive EADs on arrival to the United States. This is no longer the case however.

There are two ways to apply for an EAD now: you must win your asylum case or you must wait six months / 150 filing days.

Winning Your Asylum Case

Once you win your asylum case and receive a grant of asylum, you are no longer required to even apply for an EAD. Upon winning the case, you are automatically granted a social security number, which can be used to apply for employment in the United States. Some clients choose to apply for an EAD regardless because it provides a form of federal identification.

However, for many asylum clients, this path isn’t the best option. The reason for this is because the asylum process can be complicated and time consuming. Thus, many will find that the best method for them is the Six Month Waiting Period.

The Six Month Waiting Period

Because many applicants often have to wait months, if not years, for a decision to be made, the six month waiting period is a better option for them if they wish to work.

If an applicant has to wait more than 180 days to hear an initial decision on their asylum case, the applicant is entitled to apply for EADs. At 150 days after filing an asylum claim, the applicant may apply for an EAD by filing an I-765 Application for Employment Authorization. The USCIS then has 30 days to approve your application. At the 180 day mark, the asylum applicant may be granted a work permit. There is no filing fee for the first work permit under the (c)(8)—it is typically valid for 2 years. Thereafter, USCIS currently charges $410 for additional EADs (this filing fee may go up soon).

However, there are certain events which could stop the 150 day clock for the applicant:

  1. Failure to appear at your interview or fingerprint appointment
  2. Failure to receive and acknowledge your asylum decision in person (if required)
  3. A request to reschedule your interview for a later date
  4. A request to transfer your case to a new asylum office or interview location, including when the transfer is based on a new address
  5. A request to provide additional evidence after your interview
  6. Failure to provide a competent interpreter at your interview

 It is very challenging to start the 150 clock back up once it has been stopped, and will likely require the assistance of an attorney to do so. Recently, the Trump Administration has proposed extending the six month 180 waiting period to a full calendar year waiting period of 365 days. Although this proposal has not yet gone into effect, it should serve as a warning to get your asylum application in as soon as possible to start the clock!

The Most Commonly asked DACA Questions (2020)

The twelve most commonly asked questions about DACA, answered.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a policy which allows certain children who were brought into the US and accrued unlawful presence to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation. Even the perfect candidate for DACA may struggle to jump through the many hoops this policy demands.

  • Am I still eligible for DACA if I dropped out of high school?

No. In general, if you dropped out of school or left an educational program you will not be eligible for DACA or a DACA renewal. But you may sign up for a new educational program and apply.

  • My primary school is no longer around to request transcripts from. Who do I contact?

Contact your school district to inquire about this information.

  • Can I travel to more than one country on my Advance Parole?

You can but be certain that you return to the US before your travel document (Advance Parole) expires. The reason for your travel must also be employment, educational, or humanitarian related.  

  • I received a traffic ticket – do I include this in my application?

No. You don’t need to include minor traffic violations unless they’re alcohol or drug-related.

  • How do I prove that I’ve been in the US since 2007 if I did not attend primary school or go to a doctor?

You may prove residency in a number of ways. You can use your Parents’ Federal Income Tax Returns or Tax Transcripts if you’re listed as a dependent, if that is applicable. You may also use your parents’ leases, rental receipts, bank statements, etcetera.

Religious records from a church, mosque, or any other place of worship may also be used. For example, documents related to baptism, presentation, naming ceremonies, or any other public even or rite of passage your family celebrated with you while you were in the US.

Any photographs placing you in the US since the age of 16 and since 2007.

  • Can I travel to Puerto Rico or the Virgin Isles without Advanced Parole?

You may technically visit Puerto Rice and the US Virgin Islands without Advance Parole, but you should be aware that there are risks in doing so. Though they are US territories, flights can be rerouted through other countries, which may impact your ability to reenter the United States.

Additionally, entry back into the United States is always at the discretion of the Customs and Border Patrol officer inspecting your return. This means that even with an approved Advance Parole you’re not guaranteed to be allowed back in.

  • Can I submit bills and utility letters from my parents as proof of residence if my name is not on the bill?

Yes, if there is no better evidence available you may submit your parents’ utility bills in conjunction with evidence that you lived in your parents’ home at the time.

  • Can I purchase a home under DACA?

This depends on the lender. DACA status by itself does not stop someone from buying a home, that it can complicate the financing process since DACA status can make you ineligible from receiving certain types of loans. For example, the Federal Housing Authority loans from US Housing and Urban Development.

  • Do DACA recipients get COVID stimulus checks?

No, DACA recipients are not eligible to receive COVID stimulus checks. These checks are only being sent to US citizens, lawful permanent residents, and “resident aliens” (defined as a non-citizen who resided in the US for 31 days in 2019 and a total of 183 days in 2018 and 2019).

  • What kind of healthcare can I get under DACA?

DACA recipients are not considered an eligible immigration status for applying for health insurance through the Federal Marketplace under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). The type of health insurance you may qualify for depends on the state in which you live, and whether the state has any programs or private providers who accept enrollment from DACA holders.

  • Can I get a private loan under DACA?

It’s possible but it depends on the terms set by the lender. Some lenders accept enrollment from DACA holders who do not otherwise have status in the US.

  • Do I need to update USCIS if I move?

Yes. If you are in the US under DACA you should update the United State Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within 10 days of a move. But if you’re out of status, it’s not recommended to contact the USCIS, because it may draw unwanted and negative attention.

The Naturalization Test is Getting Harder

Becoming a citizen of the United States has gotten harder and the trend promises to continue with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) unveiling of a new test for naturalized citizenship.

Passing the naturalization test is the final requirement for permanent residents (also known as green card holders) to become US citizens. The test is taken orally during the naturalization interview as one of the final stages of the citizenship process.

This new test is drawn from 128 American history and government questions. Previously, there was a pool of 100 questions to draw from. Certain questions have been reworded and other questions will require more explanation.

For example, a question that had previously asked, “There were 13 original states, name three,” is now, “There were 13 original states. Name five.”

Another question, “What are two rights of everyone living in the United States?” is now, “What are three rights of everyone living in the United States?”

Additionally, applicants must answer 12 out of 20 questions correctly to pass. Previously, applicants needed to answer six out of 10 correctly. Despite the increase of questions, the pass percentage remains the same at 60%.

This is the first time the test has been updated in over a decade. Anyone who applies for naturalization after December 1st, 2020 must take the new version.

These modifications have come under criticism from certain immigration advocates, who state that the questions have been made more difficult without evidence of need for it. Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy counsel at the American Immigration Council, has stated that the questions now have a, “subtle political stance”.

“One question in particular raises concerns of politicization. On the old test, applicants could be asked ‘Who does a U.S. senator represent?’ The suggested answer was ‘all people of the state.’ On the new test, the suggested answer is ‘citizens of their state,’” Reichlin-Melnick stated, adding, “This is not correct. Members of Congress represent everyone who lives within their district, regardless of citizenship status. It’s been that way since the nation was founded.”

The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation compiled a national survey that found that just 1 in 3 Americans would pass the citizenship test. For this reasons, it’s important to have an attorney who can guide you through the process and ensure that you get the results you’re looking for the first time.

So far, it is unknown whether or not President-elect Joe Biden will make any revisions to this test once he takes office.

China Visa Series: Getting The Chinese Green Card (D Visa)

Whether you want to visit China long-term as a business owner or just on holiday, a necessary hoop you’ll have to jump through is getting a visa. And there’s no denying it’s a complex system. This will be a three part series that will guide you through the process of getting the three most desired visas: the permanent residence visa (D), the tourist visa (L), and the business visa (M).

The first visa we’ll be looking at is the D visa, frequently called The Chinese Green Card.

As a US citizen, you might be used to low-to-no cost entry into foreign countries. China visa fees stand at $140, with the maximum it asks for other other countries hitting a maximum of only $90 if they ask for multiple entries for ten years. There are only a handful of countries that charge US citizens at that rate or higher, though Saudi Arabia takes the cake with a visa fee amounting to half a grand at $533.

From the get go, you should know that $140 fee applies to your visa no matter how long you’d like to say, or whether or not you’re applying for multiple entries. For this reason, immigration attorneys and visa agencies will often advise you to go for broke and apply for the visa that offers multiple entries over ten years. If you tell them you’re not interested chances are they’ll look at you like you have five heads.

Ordinary Visas

A bit of background

There are four types of visas, the diplomatic, the service, the courtesy, and finally the ordinary. The vast majority of people seeking to enter China will fall into the ordinary category.

Ordinary visas are true to their name in that they apply to people who have ordinary reasons for trying to enter China. These categories of reasons are divided into twelve types: C, D, F, G, J1, J2, L, M, Q1, Q2, R, S1, S2, X1, X2, Z.

These visas range from foreign crew members on international transportation to foreign national students studying in China for a semester.

The Chinese Green Card

One of the most difficult ordinary visas to obtain is the D visa. In 2012, it was estimated approximately 5,000 D visas were granted to foreign nationals… since the program started in 2004. It’s possible that we’ll see the PRC issue more D visas in the future as the PRC seeks to entice top-level foreign talent.

But if you can get it, the D visa is one of the most desirable in that it’s essentially the Chinese version of the US green card. It grants its owner permanent residence in China and freedom to work, leave, and return to country at will… without ever having to apply for an extension or make a visa run. But it does not make the visa holder a Chinese citizen.

First and foremost, you must be 18 to qualify for this visa and not have a criminal record that the Chinese government will recognize. If you have that down, the next thing to consider is which of the six paths to permanent residence applies to you.

The types of qualification for D visa falls generally into two categories, only one of which will be considered here: either family related or business related.

For business related D visas, there are two roads. You must either be an investor or an employee. But beyond that, there are strict requirements attached to each.

D Visa: Investment

If you’re seeking to gain permanent residence in China based on your investments you must have made:

  • direct investments in China for three consecutive years and have a record of taxation as well as,
  • made an investment of over $500,000 USD in industries that are noted in the Catalogue of Industries of Foreign Investment produced by the PRC government
  • have made a total investment of over $500,000 in China’s western counties, or in counties which are currently the focus of poverty relief action by the PRC government,
  • have a total investment of over $1 million USD in the central part of the country, or
  • have invested over $2 million USD in the PRC government.

If you meet any of the above, you can then consider whether you have or can do the last four requirements.

  1. You’ll need to complete the D Visa form.
  2. A valid foreign passport.
  3. Two valid passport photos.
  4. Received a certificate of health after undergoing the Exit-Entry Inspection, conducted by the Quarantine Bureau or issued by a foreign medical agency that is accredited by teh Chinese embassy. Worth noting is that once you receive your certification it is only valid for six months.
  5. Finally, you must have certificates of registration, approval of foreign funded enterprises, proof of combined annual inspection, proof of personal tax payment, or any other document that would be relevant and material in proving the validity and worth of your investment in China.

Assuming you’ve managed to overcome every hurdle, the next step is to actually submit your documentation and fees, then kick back your feet and wait for it to process.

You’ll submit your application, with a copy of your passport page, your two passport photos, your health certification, evidence of no criminal record, all relevant documents surrounding your investment, and fees (1,500 RMB Application Fee for each person, 300 RMB for each Foreigner’s Permanent Residence Permit) to the Public Security Administration of a province of your choice, so long as it’s controlled by the PRC.

You can submit it yourself in person or you can have a third party go in your stead, but the third party must have power of attorney to submit the documentation, which should be attested to by a Chinese embassy or consular office.

Once your material is submitted, the Public Security Authority will provide a decision within six months.

D Visa: Employment

The requirements for those seeking a D visa through the professional or employment channel also face their own strict set of requirements:

  • the applicant must have worked as a deputy general manager, deputy factory director or above, or of associate professor, associate research fellow and other associate senior titles of professional post or above or enjoying an equal treatment;
  • she must have worked at least four successive years, with a minimum period of residence in China for three cumulative years within that four-year time frame;
  • she must be in good standing in terms of taxation;
  • the units where she worked must meet any of the following terms and conditions:
    • institutions subordinate to the various ministries under the State Council or to the provincial level people’s governments;
    • major higher learning schools;
    • enterprises or institutions executing major engineering projects or major scientific projects of the State;
    • high-tech enterprises,
    • foreign invested enterprises in encouraged type,
    • foreign invested advanced technology enterprises or foreign invested export-oriented enterprises.

If you fit these narrow qualifications, then you may be eligible for a D Visa. Similar to the Investment path, you must then meet then submit all of the necessary paperwork.

You’ll submit your application, with a copy of your passport page, your two passport photos, your health certification, evidence of no criminal record, all relevant documents surrounding your employment, and fees (1,500 RMB Application Fee for each person, 300 RMB for each Foreigner’s Permanent Residence Permit) to the Public Security Administration of a province of your choice, so long as it’s controlled by the PRC.

But beyond that you must also provide one of the following:

  • units are foreign funded enterprises, the certificate of approval of foreign funded enterprises and proof of combined annual inspection should also be provided;
  • persons of enterprises or institutions executing major engineering projects or scientific projects of the State should provide testifying documents for the projects issued by the competent authorities of the provincial level people’s governments or ministries;
  • persons working for high-tech enterprises should provide certificates of high-tech enterprises;
  • persons working for encouraged type foreign funded enterprises should provide letter of confirmation of the encouraged type foreign invested projects;
  • persons working for foreign invested advanced technology enterprises should provide letter of confirmation of foreign invested advanced technology enterprises;
  • persons working for foreign invested export-oriented enterprises should provide letter of confirmation of foreign invested export-oriented enterprises.

Whether you’re applying for a D visa under investment or employment, both offer very high bars for Chinese-resident hopefuls. But we may see China relax these strict requirements in the coming years.

Applying for a US Tourist Visa as a Filipino citizen comes with its unique challenges

Getting a visa to the United States can be a challenge for citizens of some countries, even if you only want a visa for a short amount of time.

For Filipino citizens, temporary visas are obtained through the U.S. Embassy in Manila. These temporary visas are nonimmigrant, which means that you will not be able to use it to obtain a green card or citizenship in the United States. However, there are many different types of visas which fall into the nonimmigrant category, with different visas requiring different things from their applicant.

There’s a general sense that it is difficult for Filipino citizens to obtain US Tourist visas (B-2), though the processing for applying for a US tourist visa as a Filipino citizen is fairly standard.

Beyond the basics of having a valid passport, you will first want to apply for a B-2 visa, which is for persons who wish to enter the US temporarily for tourism, pleasure, or visiting. With a B-2 visa you’re permitted to visit friends and relatives, participate in social events, sports and contests (so long as you’re not being paid to participate), and even enroll in short term courses for recreational study so long as that study does not give you credit towards a degree. An example of recreational study is taking a weekend long cooking class.

However, there are certain activities which are not permitted by those using a B-2 visa. Broadly, these are study, employment, paid performances, and any effort to stay long term to permanently in the United States.

To begin the application process, you must obtain and complete the DS-160 Form. This form must be submitted online as well as printed and brought to your interview. You will need to upload a picture of you that is formatted to meet the US embassy requirements.

Next, you must schedule an interview at the U.S. Embassy with the exception being if you’re under the age of 13 or over the age of 80.

With a B-2 visa, you will need to pay $160 USD or 7,933 PHP (as of April, 2017). This is a non-refundable, non-transferable visa application fee. You can pay your fee at Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) or, if you are an account holder at Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) or BancNet, you can pay online. The visa application fee must be paid whether a visa is issued or not.

Once you have paid, you may request multiple entries with a validity period of 120 months for your B-2 visa.

While this speaks to the legal process that an applicant must go through to obtain a B-2 visa, a Filipino applicant may still be denied if he or she does not carefully consider other nuances, which arise primarily in the interview.

At the interview, you should expect to be interrogated by the Consular Officer. There have been many people who have had difficult experiences with Consular Officers. The reason for this is that some Filipino citizens who come to the United States on a tourist visa choose to overstay their visas. It’s a phenomena that is described as tago nagn tago, literally “hiding and hiding”, and the reason for the sometimes gruff to rude behavior of these Consular Officers. For this reason, you may want to compile a file that shows that you have significant ties to the Philippines. Significant ties meaning family, assets, or a business that provides enough motivation to return to the Philippines once your visa has expired.

Failure to do so may lead to the rejection of your visa. If this occurs, you will have no choice but to re-apply, and re-pay your $160 fee. There are no refunds with rejections.