How to handle the Department of State

By | CIS, Commentary, Uncategorized, US Consulate, Visa | No Comments

Useful tips

1. Go dressed well for the interview
2. If you get a 221 G –con tact your attorney. Consulate decisions are final, and if you are denied, you will not be able to reenter
3. After you submit your answer for a 221G, please have patience.
4. The posts tell you to wait at least 60 days before inquiring. We actually advise 90 days. The posts are busy, so if you make yourself or your attorney a pest, the post will simply deny the visa.
5. Once you get your visa, you buy your tickets. We advise that you enter during working hours on week days, even if those tickets cost a bit more. This is because on week days and working hours the Customs and Border Patrol personnel are more senior, hass more experience and has seen your type of case before
6. Please note that if you do get into Secondary Inspection, this is not an adversarial encounter. Yes, it is difficult to wait hours after arriving from an International destination. However the visa officer is simply doing her job.
Also please note that Canadians are given I-94s. Please check your I-94 status here. Please do not overstay your visa.

Please contact Annie Banerjee at Banerjee & Associates for more information.

CIS Fees Increase

By | CIS, Fee increase, H1-B, Immigration Policy, Uncategorized | No Comments

Citizenship and Immigration Service is giving a nice Christmas present to everyone.  From December 23, the fees are going to be increased. Below is a list of fees and the corresponding increase of petitions our law office does often.


Petition type Fees on or after Dec 23 Increase
I-129: H-1B, L, TN, E 460 (other fees like fraud fee and ACWIA fees remain the same +135
Dependents: H-4, L-2, TD, etc 370 +80
Adjustment of status: I-485 1225 + 155
I-765 Employment Authorization Document 410 (In most cases add $85 for fingerprinting) +30
Travel Permit I-131 575 (In most cases add $85 for fingerprinting) +215
I-140 700 +120
I-130 For family 535 +115
Fiance I-129 F 535 +215
Extension of Green Card (Permanent Resident Card) I-90 540 +90
Motion to Reopen I-290B 675 +45
Naturalization: N 400 725 +45—Note this form is reduced for poor people and free for really poor people
Kids Certificate for citizenship 1170 +470
N-565-If you lose your Citizenship Certificate 555 +210
I-526 EB-5 3675 +2175
I-601 Waiver 930 +345

For more information contact Banerjee & Associates 

H-1B lottery

By | CIS, Commentary, H1-B, Immigration Policy | No Comments

Every year as winter starts to fade into spring, the Citizenship and Immigration Service receives thousands of petitions for H-1B visas. 236 thousand petitions last year to be precise. H-1B visas are used by US Employers to get highly qualified professionals, mainly in Science and Computer fields, from other countries. The Congress has imposed a quota on new H-1B visas of 65K every year (plus 20 K for US Master’s Degree holders). So every year in mid-April, the Citizenship and Immigration Service does a lottery and only the lucky 65K + 20 K get in.

The chances of getting into the lottery in 2016 is a little more than one in three. As our country grows, its needs grow resulting in more and more petitions and less chances for petitions to be selected. If an attorney prepares the H-1B file, the employer loses the attorney’s fees if they do not get into the lottery. Thus big companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft and other Silicon Valley Billion dollar company can afford to lose money and file thousands of petitions every year. Google for instance filed 9280 petitions last year. That’s like buying 9280 lottery tickets rather than one that the small employer can afford. And although the lottery probably is random, the probability for winning it is higher if you buy more lottery tickets. And yes, we business Immigration attorneys earn a lot of money during that process as well.
The Citizenship and Immigration Service always maintained that the lottery process was fair. However, two companies in Portland Oregon—-Tenrec Inc. and Walker Macy LLC has filed a lawsuit against the Citizenship and Immigration Service to make the lottery process more transparent. A federal judge has ruled that the plaintiffs have standing to sue. What the plaintiffs’ are asking for though, is to not close the accepting of Petitions for the first 5 business days in April, but prolong it year long. That might actually be worse in creating log jams and increasing processing times for H-1B petitions. And American Immigration Lawyer’s Association has also filed a FOIA suit to make the lottery process more transparent.
Although greater transparency is desired from any Governmental organization, mere transparency will not solve the H-1B problem. The market place works on a supply and demand theory. The artificial quota system demands that employers project their need in the beginning of the year, think about the lottery and apply as many petitions as possible. Similarly highly educated tech employees in India and elsewhere seek out employers and in many cases pay them to file their cases. But doing away with the quota requires a Congressional Act, and as we all know, Congress does not act.

For more information call Banerjee& Associates.

When Natural Disasters happen

By | CIS, Commentary, Immigration Policy | No Comments

The Government works with deadlines. Unlike State Court where lawyers can argue that they are not ready and reset the date of their hearing, we attorneys working with federal agencies have to such leverage. We are given an audit notice by the Department of Labor, and we have to answer in 20 days. No matter if your mother dies, or you have a tragedy. Unlike State court lawyers, we also cannot take holidays, unless some other lawyer covers us.
So what happens when there is an act of nature? I had to file a request for evidence for a case when Hurricane Rita caused Houston to shut down and flee town. I took my fedex envelops with me on a 10 hour journey to Austin, and mailed them from there. However, recently, with major hurricanes, floodings, etc, the Citizenship and Immigration Services issues guidelines. With the advent of websites to contact the Government is relatively easy. However, one will still need the receipt number to communicate with the Government.
When forces of nature happen, the Government offices are immediately closed and appointments are rescheduled. However, the lawyer and the clients are still left with the burden of answering and filing.
With the heavy rains paralyzing Baton Rouge, these are the guidelines from Citizenship and Immigration Services.
USCIS offers immigration relief measures that may help people affected by unforeseen circumstances, such as disasters like the recent severe storms and flooding in Louisiana.
These measures may be available upon request:
• Change of nonimmigrant status or extension of nonimmigrant stay for an individual currently in the United States, even if the request is filed after the authorized period of admission has expired;
• Re-parole of individuals previously granted parole by USCIS;
• Expedited processing of advance parole requests;
• Expedited adjudication of requests for off-campus employment authorization for F-1 students experiencing severe economic hardship;
• Expedited adjudication of employment authorization applications, where appropriate;
• Consideration of fee waivers due to an inability to pay;
• Assistance for those who received a Request for Evidence or a Notice of Intent to Deny but were unable to appear for an interview, submit evidence or respond in a timely manner;
• Replacement of lost or damaged immigration or travel documents issued by USCIS, such as a Permanent Resident Card (Green Card);
• Rescheduling of a biometrics appointment.
Note: When making a request, please explain how the severe storms or flooding created a need for the requested relief.
However, to contact the Citizenship and Immigration Services, you will still need the receipt number. If any lawyer’s office is flooded, I hope the Government will understand. Global warming will cause more and more natural disasters every year. A humane Government agency will be appreciated. On the other hand, a lawyer should save important documents in the cloud for easier access.

For more information please contact Immigration Lawyer, Annie Banerjee in Houston

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Degree Equivalency for I-140

By | CIS, Houston Immigration, Immigration Policy | No Comments

Everyone knows that the CIS is in a denying mode and will deny every Employment based petition that it possibly can. Add that to the equation that for India and China the Employment based Third Preference petitions for India is currently being processed for people who filed in July of 2001. A lot of client want to get onto the second preference category. But the requirements for EB-2 are very strict. The minimum qualification for an EB-2 job is at least a Master’s Degree or a Bachelor’s Degree plus 5 years of experience. The Experience has to be obtained after the degree is obtained and before starting the job with the sponsor. (The rationale being that if the sponsor provided the beneficiary with the experience, it can provide an Us Citizen with the same experience opportunity).

However, the CIS is extremely harsh with Indian degrees.

A three year Bachelors Degree from India is not equivalent to a Bachelor’s degree here.

A three year Bachelors degree in a general field and a one (or sometimes two year) Masters degree in a particular field from India is not equivalent to a Bachelors degree in the US

A Bachelors degree in some field and a Masters in another specific field is not equivalent to a Masters even if the time frame for both studies is 6 years.

A Four year Bachelor’s Degree and 1 year Masters is not equivalent to a Masters

The waters are more muddied by the fact that all these cases are decided on a “case by case basis.” There is no consistency between cases even in the same service center.

I realize that there are some institutions in India that are not good, but so are many institutions in the US. India has 1 billion people and the competition to get into Universities is far higher than in the US. Yet, the US looks favorably to a degree from say England, than it does to a degree from India. As they say in India, if you cannot get into IIT, apply to MIT or Harvard.

And for the record, Obama did not get into Columbia as an undergraduate in the freshman year. He transferred from Occidental College. And Bush could not have gotten into any college based on merit. Saint John’s School in Houston refused him admission as a kid.

Contact Houston Immigration Lawyer, Annie Banerjee for more details

H-1B and the CIS

By | CIS, H1-B | 171 Comments

In a letter to Senator Grassley, the CIS defended their H-1B adjudication practices and their everything under the kitchen sink Request for Evidences.

The CIS is looking into revising the form I-129 to have Petitioner and beneficiary both attest that:

The beneficiary has been advised of the offsite placement and accepts the terms of the H-IB employment, including the job location and possible relocation;

Really? Does anyone working for the software industry not know that they have to work off site. These people are always traveling, the beneficiary KNOWS they have to work off site. Same with Oil Company Engineers. Its the nature of their work. Does CIS seriously think the beneficiary does not know?

2. Placement of the beneficiary offsite during the period of employment will be in compliance with the statutory and regulatory requirements of the H-IB nonimmigrant classification;

3. The beneficiary will be paid the prevailing rate of pay at any offsite
location; and,

This is in line with the question on the I-94 application on the plane, “Are you a terrorist.” Has anyone ever answered yes to that question? Similarly, will anyone filing an H-1B petition ever say they will not comply with the law?

4. The work itinerary is attached.

The H-1B is given for 3 years. It is difficult to predict the itinerary for all those 3 years. If the work itinerary is for less than 3 years, then the employer has to file the whole H-1B again, with the high fees. And even if they have the work itinerary, the job may be canceled, etc. So what is the point of private employers filing job itineraries with the Government?

All of this simply penalizes the small employers who form the backbone of the American economy.

Contact Houston Immigration Lawyer, Annie Banerjee for more details

Ivan Fong named CIS General Counsel

By | CIS, News & Press | 122 Comments

President Obama has named Mr. Ivan J Fong as the General Counsel of USCIS. Mr. Fong has the typical successful Asian resume—-He has a Bachelor and Master of Science in Chemical Engineering from MIT, was a fullbright Scholar at Oxford and a JD from Stanford. He was recently the Chief Legal Officer for Cardinal Health. Before that he was the Deputy Associate Attorney General for the Justice Department, where he wrote a groundbreaking report on cyber crime.

He is indeed very bright, a computer geek, a nerd. But I dont see any experience with immigration law. Hopefully though he will do a good job.

Contact Houston Immigration Lawyer, Annie Banerjee for more details

Is Work Criminal?

By | CIS, Employer/Employee, Immigration Policy | 165 Comments

The Bush Government is solidly anti work when it comes to immigration. Yes, I admit that a worker must have the legal right to work. But employers know this too, and they would not take in immigrants if they found immigrants and United States Citizens ready to work. The anti Immigration forces make a huge deal about how immigrants are into crime, violence, etc. Yet Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s major focus is work place raids to eradicate illegal workers, not illegal criminals. Unless of course working was criminal!

But the same is true for legal workers who are not from this country. Everyday I hear stories from clients about how long the work permits are taking, and how they simply cannot get the CIS to issue them quickly. These workers are forced to quit and in many cases force to go back to their home country. Many of them are in fields like research or IT where there simply is not enough qualified immigrants to do the job.

Even though the economy is bad, we still need skilled workers. Laid off auto workers in Detroit will not be able to perform bio tech research. And if we continue to have this same policy, US will continue to slip behind.

I know that the economy and not immigration is the major focus of the Obama Government. But America as a nation was built by immigrants and will continue to prosper as long as we get hardworking immigrants in.

Just like a plant that has to work harder to survive in unaccustomed earth, human being flourish better if they have to fight in a foreign land with scant help.

Contact Houston Immigration Lawyer, Annie Banerjee for more details

Marriage Based Interview

By | CIS, Citizenship and Naturalization | 171 Comments

How to ACE a marriage based Interview at CIS

DO-Dress professionally. As in any interview, the interviewer forms an initial impression, which if negative is hard to shake. The clothes do not have to be expensive But have proper respect by wearing clothes that cover. This is a serious interview, not a dance club

DO- Tell the truth. There are no right or wrong thing in a marriage and making up lies really complicate matter. Apart from the fact that the officer places you under oath to “tell the truth” and lying to a federal officer is a felony, it does actually hurts your case. The officers are supposed to judge whether you are married or not under state law. Most state law defines marriage as:
1. Intent to be married
2. Having a ceremony of some sort for the marriage
3. Holdingout to others as man and wife

Marriage is ultimately a social declaraion of the intent of one man and one woman to be together and no other societal rules govern marriage.

In a separate interview once, for my clients, the husband was asked where he took his wife on the last date. The wife had already answered Mc Donalds. The husband did not want to say that he was that “cheap.” So he hesitated, and ultimately said “a nice restaurant.” We had trouble with that case, although the couple was happily married.

In another case, the male client had gone back to his village in Tanzania, while his pregnant wife stayed in the US. The question was whether when he was in Tanzania, did he call his wife. The man answered no. His village had no phones. His wife thought it would “look bad” that he never called his pregnant wife, so she answered yes. The nest question was how many time, and she answered three ties a day. One lie leads to another. We had to wait for the birth of the child for the officer to actually believe that the couple was in fact living together.

Do -Take all the documents with you. For instance:

Proof of Cohabitation – As many of these as you can get:

A. Copy of birth certificate of child together
B. Copy of joint mortgage documents
C. Copy of joint rental agreement
D. Copy of life insurance where the spouse is the beneficiary
E. Copy of joint health insurance
F. Copy of joint car insurance
G. Copy of joint bank account
H. Copy of joint stock certificate
I. Copy of joint credit card bills
J. Copy of joint purchases, example car or furniture or appliances
K. Marriage album and pictures

a. Marriage certificate
b. Birth certificates of both spouses
c. Naturalization certificate for petitioner
d. Divorce decrees for both spouses, if applicable
e. All other documents submitted to the INS, like EAD card, or travel document like advance parole
f. Passport, driver’s license and SS Card for both spouses

Do– Be short and sweet. Just answer the specific question asked, nothing more. The officer has many interviews to do a day, and does not have time to hear your life story. Besides going off on tangents derails the officer, and make their job harder. If they forget something, they can ask you to come back later, delaying the time you have to get your green card.

DON’T -Prepare for the interview other than collecting the documents. Very often clients ask me what type of questions are asked, with the intent of starting to memorize the answers. When one of my clients asked me that, I had told him that they may ask him questions about his wife, like her birth date, etc. At the interview, he told me he had memorized everything about his wife. I dont know whether that endeared him more to his wife, but for the interview purpose it was a complete waste of time. Again, since there are no rules in a marriage there is no rule as to what you should now. If you dont know, say “I dont know.” Dont make up an answer. A client was once asked what perume the other spouse wears. This couple knew the answer. But dear readers, I have been married for 22 years, and have raised two kids with my husband aged 21 and 20. And frankly I dont think my husband wears a perfume. My husband certainly does not know what perfume I wear. I dont know what perfume I wear, since they come from little bottles on my dresser that I get as presents. So, if you dont know, say “I dont know.”

DON’T-Act overly amorous or lovey-dovey. The officers are trained to recognize frauds and being overly amorous raises the suspicion as to whether you are really married. Act normal. You are always liked best when you are your natural self.

And above all DON’T file false petitions! That is a crime and will get you deported. If you are actually not living together as man and wife, immigration officers do find out. These officers are trained and do nothing but marriage cases about 7-8 a day for years!

Latest on FBI Name Check Issue

By | CIS, News & Press | No Comments

Good News! According to a memo by Michael Aytes, Associate Director of Domestic Operations at CIS, a case otherwise approvable but which is pending FBI name check for more than 180 days, will be send to production of card. In other words, if your case has been adjudicated and is waiting the FBI name check for more than 180 days, you will receive the green card. If however there is a negative report in the FBI name check later, CIS will issue removal and deportation procedure. The FBI has agreed to complete all name checks within 180 days.

Hopefully this memo, which is not binding, will be followed.

If any of these individuals are indeed dangerous, it is not safe in any case to harbor them for more than 180 days. On the other hand, innocent people will at least have their due process right to a green card.

Hopefully this will be the dawn of a brave new world.