Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Overstay Could Bar Green Card for Visa Waiver Entrants

Overstay Rules for Visa Waiver Countries Are Changing!

Visa waiver entrants benefit from a program that Congress created allowing citizens of certain countries to come to the U.S. as tourists for 90 days or less without visitor's visas. To get the government waiver of the usual visa requirement, the tourist has to sign a wiaver of his or her own right to contest removal other than on the basis of asylum. Visa waiver countries include Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain, Belgium, Australia, France, and others. A total of 27 countries currently have this designation.

In a recent 9th Circuit decision (Momeni v. Chertoff, March 31, 2008), the court held that a visa waiver entrant from Germany could not benefit from adjustment of status (green card application) from inside the US despite it being based on marriage to a U.S. citizen, due to overstay after the entrant was placed in removal proceedings before filing for adjustment. Under those facts, the visa waiver entrant would have to consular process and could be subject to an unlawful presence bar (3 or 10 years depending on the amount of time overstayed) which would require a lengthy waiver process to be able to re-enter the U.S. as well as grant from the Attorney General to let him come back despite a recent deportation.

What this case means at least in the 9th Circuit, is that it is riskier for a visa waiver entrant to apply for adjustment after the 90 day alloted stay expires.

CIS local offices may interpret this case to apply to visa waiver entrants who overstay their 90 days and then file a green card case (adjustment) whether or not a person is ever placed in removal, leading to a denial of the green card case. It's a catch in a way, because applying for an adjustment right after entry can lead to CIS concluding that the visa waiver entrant committed visa fraud at entry by really intending to move to the US on their visa waiver (which is the equivalent of a visitor's visa), which could result in denial of the adjustment application and eventual removal. Caselaw in other circuits may also affect visa entrants' ability to apply for permanent residency in the U.S.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Abused Spouses Who Enter Illegally Now Able to Obtain Green Card

CIS recently released a memo confirming a nationwide policy to allow battered spouses who have received an approved Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) petition to apply for a green card while in the U.S., despite an illegal entry. Prior to this memo's release, there was no nationwide interpretation of the statute on this issue and various CIS district offices were granting VAWA green cards for those who entered illegally and many other CIS offices were not.
This is a huge victory for battered spouses who entered illegally, many of which could face unlawful presence bars, the permanent bar, or be at risk if had to leave the U.S. to process their green card petitions abroad at a consulate.

This memo was very narrowly tailored, however, to apply to those who entered without inspection, not necessarily pertaining to those who entered by other means, i.e., with a fiance visa and did not marry the USC sponsor but married someone else who turned abusive, or those who entered with J-1s who are having adjustment problems (or other such situations).
9th Circuit Finds Adjustment (Green Card) Unavailable to Persons Who Enter the U.S. by Using False Documents or by Fraud; Must Consular Process!

summary posted by AILA (American Immigration Lawyers Association) InfoNet Doc. No. 08050544 (posted May. 5, 2008)

Orozco v. Mukasey, (9th Cir. Mar. 25, 2008)

On January 11, 1996, Petitioner entered the United States by presenting the permanent resident card ("green card") of another person to an immigration inspector. On April 13, 2005, Petitioner was charged with removability under INA §237(a)(1)(A) for having presented a counterfeit document to gain admission into the U.S. Petitioner, who was married to a U.S. citizen, submitted an application for adjustment of status (green card application) under INA §245(a) and a waiver of inadmissibility under INA §212(i) for the fraud. The immigration judge concluded that Petitioner was statutorily ineligible for adjustment of status because he had not been lawfully "admitted" for permanent residence and that even if Petitioner qualified for a §212(i) waiver, he remained ineligible for adjustment because of his fraudulent entry.

The court concluded, a "lawful" entry "requires more than simply presenting oneself for inspection and being allowed to enter the United States." Petitioner's use of a fraudulent document to gain entry into the U.S. was unlawful and was grounds for criminal charges under 18 USC §1001(a) and §1028(a)(7). Therefore, the court rejected Petitioner's argument "that his entry, while criminal, was lawful for purposes of [INA §245(a)] because he presented himself for inspection and admission and was allowed to enter the United States." Finally, the court rejected Petitioner's attempt to cure his unlawful entry with a waiver of inadmissibility under INA §212(i). The court explained that lawful entry is a statutory prerequisite for adjustment of status that cannot be waived by §212(i). The petition for review was denied.