Lydia’s Long Wait – A Federal Court Victory

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From left: Nancy Vizer, Lydia, and Noelia Rodríguez

Lydia has given us permission to use her real name for this story. She is one of the United States’ newest citizens. Lydia has been an asset to the United States for many years, serving as one of the patient, caring people who tends to elderly people in their homes, giving our parents and grandparents the time and energy that we can’t take out of our busy lives.

Yet Lydia was a victim of incompetence, indifference and outright heartlessness on the part of numerous US government employees.

Lydia came to our office about five years ago. She had come to the United States from Ghana and had married a nice young man, a US citizen. He wished to sponsor her for permanent residence, so that she would be able to remain here and share her life with him. It is our policy to only take cases where we are convinced that the couple is “real”; we have declined numerous illegal “fraudulent marriage” cases over the years.

After meeting with the couple and satisfying ourselves about their relationship, we prepared and submitted the necessary application forms, attended an interview with the couple, and the case was approved in due time.

Since Lydia had not been married for two years when her case was approved, she was required to renew her permanent residence two years later, to again prove that she was not in a sham marriage. We met with the couple and again submitted the necessary application package on August 12, 2012. And then we waited. We got a formal Request for Evidence in the mail and submitted additional documents. And then we waited. The couple was called in for an interview. The interviewing officer asked for additional documents. We provided the additional documents. And then we waited. The interviewing officer was reassigned before he closed out the case, so the couple was called in for a second interview, which we attended together. And then we waited.

We finally got tired of waiting. Because she had been a permanent resident for well over the required three years, Lydia was eligible for US citizenship, so we prepared and submitted that application package. She was called in for an interview within a reasonable amount of time, but the officer told us she could not approve the case until the permanent residence renewal had been resolved. I reminded the officer that the regulations require that a citizenship application be approved or denied within 120 days of the interview. We left the interview. And then we waited. After 120 days, we wrote to several supervisors, advising them that the interviewing officer was violating the regulations by not finishing out the case within 120 days. And then we waited.

During all of this time, Lydia missed the funerals of two good friends in Ghana. She wished to visit her father in Ghana, whose health is not good. But she was afraid to travel while her various applications remained pending. There is always the possibility that if an application is denied while the foreign national is overseas, she will not be admitted back into the United States.

So finally, after about 150 days of waiting for a decision on Lydia’s naturalization application, we took the matter to federal court, seeking the judge’s order requiring US Citizenship and Immigration Services to follow its own regulations. And then we waited. The government was required to respond to our complaint within 60 days, but asked for an additional 30 days. We agreed, since the judge would have allowed the delay  with or without our agreement. The US government just gets to do that, with no excuse.

Finally, on the 90th day, August 10, 2015, almost exactly three years after Lydia started her renewal odyssey, we learned that USCIS had approved her case, so that its officers would not have to explain to a federal judge why the USCIS was violating the law. She took her oath of citizenship on August 25. We normally don’t go to these oath ceremonies, but we chose to go to Lydia’s to share the end of her very difficult ordeal.

We are thrilled that she will continue to be an asset to this country, to our parents and grandparents, and that her long wait is over!

Suman’s Surprise – An EB-1 Outstanding Researcher Success

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I don’t know “Suman” very well, as I have mostly worked with her husband, “Karan.” Suman was born in India, but spent a part of her adult life living in other parts of Asia as she followed Karan’s career around the world. Besides continuing to work full time, Suman was the primary caretaker for the couple’s child. She has been living in the United States for about a year and loves it here!

Karan is an outstanding researcher in the field of Biotechnology. His arduous research at a major US university is helping to improve the environment both in the United States and overseas. He is also helping to develop crops that will not only grow more efficiently, but will taste better to consumers.

As citizens of India, it was quite difficult for Karan, Suman and their daughter to obtain permanent residence in the United States. There is an annual quota for each category of permanent residence. Each country can only use 7% of the quota each year, so certain categories are oversubscribed, and that country’s citizens must wait years to “move to the head of the line” with respect to the quota.

In Karan’s case, there were two ways he could get permanent residence. The easier way would be to prove that his work is in the national interest (we all want a better environment and better tasting crops, I think), that it would have nationwide benefits (ditto) and that his work is exceptional among his peers. However, this particular category is so oversubscribed among citizens of India that the family’s wait for permanent residence would have been close to ten years. During this time, it would have been very difficult, or maybe impossible, for Suman to work legally in the United States. The family would have to survive on one postdoctoral researcher’s income. Sadly, in spite of the importance of Karan’s work, this pay is not enough for a family of three.

So we tried a different category; “outstanding” researcher, or category EB-1. This category has a much higher standard, but it is not oversubscribed. The family could become permanent residents within about 90 days of the immigration officer’s finding that Karan’s work is “outstanding.” Suman would be able to keep working. (She had a temporary work authorization that she would not have been able to renew after the end of August, 2015).

It was getting close to August. The family was facing the loss of Suman’s income, which would have led to very difficult times. So Karan turned to me for help.

I reviewed Karan’s cv with him, and told him that I thought his work was outstanding, but that I was not the one who would decide his case. I could only prepare an application package and submit it to USCIS. I worked intensely with Karan over a six-week period to gather reference letters from his peers, along with about 80 other supporting documents. Karan paid the government an additional $1,225 “premium processing” fee, over and above the normal $2,720 government filing fee, to insure that the government would make a decision about whether or not his work was “outstanding” within 15 days. Quite a gamble when the government’s standard of review is often prohibitive in these cases. Karan, who was aware of the risk, was willing to take it to ensure his family’s future.

Sure enough, within about a week, we received a preliminary approval notice, and I expect the family to become permanent residents before the end of the year.

So why is this blog post called “Suman’s Surprise?” Because Karan decided to surprise Suman with the approval. In fact, he didn’t even tell her he was submitting the preliminary application package. When it was approved, Karan took his family out to Maggiano’s for a great Italian dinner. He first handed his phone to a friend to take a video. Then he told Suman he was giving her an early birthday present, and handed her an envelope with the preliminary approval notice inside. There were several other associated documents, and Suman took a few minutes to leaf through them, trying to understand the significance.

Finally, she “got it.” Watching the video of her face move from confusion to exuberance was one of the most rewarding moments of my career. Suman gradually realized that her family would be able to remain in the United States indefinitely, that she would be able to continue working, and that their child would be a “normal” part of the American fabric. Her smile grew bigger as she figured out each implication of the pieces of paper in her hands. As she got up to hug Karan, he told the camera, “I didn’t tell her.” The couple’s daughter caught the mood and began hugging both parents, running from one side of the table to the other.

I hope that I get to meet Suman, Karan and their daughter one day. They live far from Chicago so they will have to plan a family “road trip.” But whether I ever meet them or not, I am glad that the United States will continue to benefit from their presence here.

The inadequacy of the In-Country Refugee/Parole Program for Central American Minors (CAM)

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On December 1, 2014, a new program was announced by the U.S. Department of State (DOS) in response to the “surge” of immigrant minors at the border during the summer of 2014. The program implemented by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is now called CAM which stands for the Central American Minors Refugee/Parole Program. It is specifically designed to help minors living in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala who have parents lawfully residing in the United States to escape the violence and turmoil in their native country.  It is dubbed “a safe, legal, and orderly alternative to the dangerous journey that some children are currently undertaking to the United States.” Information on who is eligible to apply for the program and a description of the process can be found at the following link:

As of April 23, 2015 the program has only received 461 applications, none of which have been adjudicated. The estimated processing time for an application is 9 months to a year. In the mean time there are no protections offered to the children awaiting adjudication. The “safe, legal, and orderly alternative” characterization of the program belies its true nature.  The reality is that these children do not have time to wait 9 to 12 months, and even to a casual observer this seems absurd. Essentially the U.S. government is saying, “You say you fear for your life because you have already been persecuted or you have a well-founded fear of future persecution? That’s nice. Please return to your scary life for 9 to 12 months while we look into that. And I’m sorry, even though speaking to U.S. government officials could expose you to even more danger, we have no protection to offer you. But thanks for applying!”

And let’s further discuss that 461 figure mentioned above. That number seems awfully low compared to the surge of thousands who came in the summer of 2014 and are still coming to our southern borders seeking refuge. It might be said that the program is inadequately publicized but the experience in our office has been that plenty of people in the Salvadoran, Honduran and Guatemalan community are aware of the program and its benefits.

The issue comes from the lack of funding provided to the local designated resettlement agencies here in the United States who are supposed to be helping the parents here in the United States to submit their applications.  During a recent teleconference hosted by USCIS on March 31, 2015, several callers were directors or employees of these resettlement agencies stating that they cannot meet the burden placed upon them to fill out the initial application because they have no budget to support this program. We have heard this complaint from some of our own clients who state that they called 3 or 4 resettlement agencies here in the Washington, D.C. area and none of them were able to assist in filling out this application. How is this program supposed to provide the necessary relief when clients can’t even get basic access to submit their applications?

Furthermore this program has been designed to cut attorneys out of the loop so that the parents who want legal representation during the process do not have that option. The application form can only be accessed and completed with the assistance of a designated resettlement agency, which has no funding to staff someone to assist you with filling out the application. As attorneys all we can do is advise our clients on the potential strength of their children’s claim but at this point there seems to be no other avenue for us to intervene or assist.

At best this program is a loose band-aid for the current crisis at the southern border. At its worst it puts the lives of the refugees at risk because it provides no protection for those who speak to U.S. government officials in connection with these applications. We hope that Congress will heed the appeals of the immigrant advocates who recently testified before them regarding this program and will take active steps to improve it. To view the hearing please click on the following link:

Charlie’s Children – Criminal Immigrants

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Okay, “Charlie” is a criminal. I get it. But that does not make his teenage and young adult children criminals.

Charlie, his three children and their mother came to the US from Central America when the children were about ten years old, give or take. They remained in the United States for years, much longer than the six months they were allowed.

Not a model family man, Charlie left his family for a young lady he met at work. The only positive to come from this union was that when Charlie married this US citizen, she was able to sponsor him and his three children for permanent residence.

Not surprisingly, the marriage did not last long. But at the end of two years, Charlie and the children needed to renew their permanent residence. The renewal application was required to include evidence that Charlie’s marriage to the US citizen had been bona fide. The marriage had been bona fide – there was a child, as well as other evidence that the couple actually lived together as a couple. Although the couple was already divorced, this evidence that it had been a “real” marriage would have been sufficient for Charlie and the children to renew their status.

Unfortunately, there was a catch. Charlie was barred from renewing his permanent residence because of the $100,000 + he had chosen to embezzle. He was in jail and on his way back to Belize once his sentence was over. His children, who were excelling in high school and college, were suddenly left without a way to remain in the United States. Within weeks, the government put them into removal proceedings, seeking to get them out of the country.

Luckily, the timing was right. President Obama had just taken executive action that allowed young adults who had no status in the United States to obtain employment authorization and remain here legally. Charlie’s children fell in this category and were able to take advantage of this lifeline. His oldest child, who recently graduated from college with honors and is now serving the community as a social worker, will be able to get back her permanent residence because she has married a US citizen. The younger two may be able to regain their status this way also at some point. For now, they are grateful for the opportunity to live and work legally in the United States until they are able to become full members of the community.

Charlie writes to me from time to time from Central America, asking me if any of the laws proposed by Congress will help him return to the United States. I can’t imagine that Congress will ever ease the path for convicted felons to return to the US, although it is certainly unfortunate that Charlie’s children are unlikely to ever reunite with their father.

Eber’s Evidence – Temporary Protected Status

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This blog entry is not about one particular client, but instead is a composite of several clients, that I will call Eber.

Eber is a hard-working young man from El Salvador. Up until the end of 2000, his family members were subsistence farmers. If their region had a bad year, they would borrow from friends and families in other regions, and then return the favor in better years.

But in December of 2000, Hurricane Mitch struck El Salvador, devastating more than half the country. Not only were thousands of small family farms washed away, the entire infrastructure necessary to support those farms was destroyed. Roads were gone overnight, so that the necessary farm machinery could not be delivered where it was needed. Land that had been carefully tended for generations was covered with rocks and mud, which could not be removed without the machinery. Thousands upon thousands of families were left to starve, with no way to earn a living and no government infrastructure to provide subsistence needs.

At the same time, the American economy was booming. Laborers were needed to build houses, pick crops, serve as housekeepers and work in factories and restaurants. But the immigration system for filling these unskilled positions requires a three to seven year wait, from the time the employer starts the process until the employee obtains work authorization.

So consistent with the history of the world, the law of supply and demand trumped man’s laws. Tens of thousands of Salvadorans, Eber among them, found their way to the United States. Eber became a construction laborer. He stayed in a rented room, often sharing a bed with a night shift worker. His employer, unable to find “legal” workers, was forced to pay Eber in cash.

On March 9, 2001, the US Department of State took pity on the Salvadoran workers. It designated them for “temporary protected status,” which meant that they could live and work legally in the United States, as long as they could prove that they had been born in El Salvador, did not have a serious criminal record, and had been in the United States before that day. Salvadorans would retain this status until the country’s infrastructure was back in place, which has not yet happened all these years later.

Proving that Eber had been born in El Salvador and did not have serious criminal records was easy. He had his passport and birth certificate and was fingerprinted as part of the application process. But how could we prove he had been in the United States before March 9, 2001? His passport was not stamped because he had entered the country illegally. He had no pay records or rent receipts and did not have a bank account or credit cards.

Finally, we found the necessary paper trail. Eber, who earned minimum wage on his best days, had a number of receipts from Western Union. As soon as he had earned $10, he had sent $5 back home. His very strong culture dictated that he share whatever he had with his starving family.

After we learned from Eber about this documentation, the rest of these cases became easier; an overwhelming majority of the Salvadorans were able to present similar receipts to include in their application packages.

In this case, the Salvadorans’ culture had provided them with the means to obtain documentation; once US Citizenship and Immigration Services had the evidence that these hard workers had been in the United States on the date that TPS was designated for El Salvador, they were given the means to get social security numbers, work legally, and contribute their share of taxes, participating in the Salvadorans’ legacy of giving back to the community.

Diana’s Difficulties – Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

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Teenage girl

All of my “Client” blog entries so far have endings. This one is still playing itself out but I am writing it now because it is an important story to tell.

“Diana” is fourteen years old. Like most other children, she has dealt with challenges in her life. I am imagining the challenges many of my readers faced by that age – final exams, not having the right clothes for the big party, losing a cellphone with important contact information.

Here are the challenges Diana has faced. She was born in El Salvador, the daughter of a gang member she never met, and a teenage mother. Diana’s mother had no way to earn a living, so after her own mother threw her out, she started renting Diana out to any man willing to pay to spend time with a very young girl. This went on for a couple of years, until Diana ran away from home. Her US citizen aunt in America had promised her that she would keep Diana safe from violence, if only Diana could get to America. Now Diana faced the challenge of how to pay the smuggler. The smuggler, a very helpful man, suggested that Diana could earn money for her journey with the skills her mother had taught her.

Diana made it to America after several months spent earning the smuggler’s fee, in El Salvador and all the way north through Mexico, and was promptly caught by immigration agents. Her aunt bonded her out of detention and brought her home to Prince William County, Virginia. The aunt is willing and able to support Diana emotionally and financially. Diana is eligible for “Special Immigrant Juvenile Status,” (SIJS) which is a procedure through which children who have been “abused, abandoned or neglected” by their parents can become lawful permanent residents of the United States. Congress has written these laws to protect the most vulnerable among us.

Diana’s case sounds like a slam dunk, right? She has been “abused, abandoned and neglected,” by any definition one could write. But Diana faces a huge obstacle, one which we are not sure we can overcome. Before she can apply to US Citizenship and Immigration Services for SIJS, she needs a court order, not only giving guardianship to her aunt, but also making the specific finding that she has been “abused, abandoned or neglected” by her parents. We have learned that the judges in certain parts of Virginia are reluctant to make these formal findings in potential SIJS cases, not wishing to interject themselves into the immigration process. Never mind that they make these findings on behalf of American children all the time.

We are cautiously optimistic that Diana’s very compelling case will be among the first to overcome one of these judges’ reluctance to act. I hope to update this blog entry in the next few months with the news that Diana has finally found the refuge that she has needed since birth.

I have included some video snapshots from AILA members on the ground of Artesia describing how others like Diana are being treated by “the system” when they are caught crossing the southern border:

Bao’s Brilliant Son – an Immigration Success Story

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“Bao’s” son “Xing” is a brilliant student. As a high school senior, he played violin in the college orchestra. He was captain of his high school’s math team, which won several state championships and then came in second on a national level.

Bao came to the United States with her family when Xing was about three years old. At the time, Bao and her husband were undergrad students. As foreign students, ineligible for FAFSA or in-state benefits, they subsidized the Americans attending their universities. They remained through Bao’s Ph.D. and eventual position as a professor.

Bao and her husband are athletes and her field of expertise is teaching coaches to excel. She ended up training one of the coaches whose team won an Olympic gold medal. The college team that her husband coached won a national championship.

Bao and her husband have always paid taxes. But as Xing approached college age several years ago, he was not eligible for FAFSA or even in-state tuition. The solution was for Bao and her family to become US permanent residents. When I met them, they had started applying for this status years before. Although they were fully qualified, quotas kept them from getting final approval; there were still many thousands “in line” ahead of them.

Bao had applied for permanent residence as a university professor, a category that is virtually guaranteed for approval. However, only 7% are allotted to citizens of any one country each year. Chinese and Indian citizens are severely effected by this quota, simply because of the sheer numbers of applicants.

Time was running out. Xing would be a high school senior within a year, but the family was not likely to have made it to the front of the “quota line.” So Bao contacted me to discuss a way to sidestep the line. She would submit a new application for permanent residence, paying a new set of fees. But this time, she would try a more complex procedure; “outstanding professor,” not just “university professor.” Although there is also a quota for the “outstanding professor” category, it is never over-subscribed.

So Bao and I got to work. We gathered certificates showing her achievements, a list of the many citations to her published papers, letters from her peers discussing how she stood out among them, and evidence that she had trained coaches who had gone on to highly successful careers. Her application package took well over a ream of paper.

It was late October of Xing’s senior year of high school. The deadline for early-decision applications to his first-choice university was drawing near. But he held off on submitting the application, waiting for the day he could check off “permanent resident” in the citizenship category section.

Coincidentally, I had planned a trip to visit Bao and several of my other clients at her university, several hundred miles from my office, in mid November. On about November 5, we received notification that Bao had been approved for permanent residence as an “outstanding professor,” with her husband and son obtaining the status as derivatives. They got their cards in the mail the day before I visited their university.

I had never met Bao before that day; like many of my clients, all of our interactions had been by phone, fax, email and Fed Ex. The day I met them, they were thrilled to show me the cards demonstrating their new status.

Xing ended up at his first choice, nationally-recognized university, where he excelled in his classes. The family is an American success story!

Edgardo and Maria’s intimate details: Couple’s immigration interview gone wrong

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Janet Leigh Screaming in Psycho Shower Scene

A client I will call Edgardo is a United States citizen with roots in Ecuador. On a trip home after his divorce, he met and fell in love with a wonderful woman, and decided to marry her and sponsor her for permanent residence, so that they would be able to share their life in the United States. “Maria” is in her late twenties and has a child from a previous relationship; Edgardo is in his mid forties. Edgardo filed an application for a “fiancee visa,” which took about six months for the first tier of approval. It was then sent to the United States consulate in Ecuador for further review. The consular officer who met with Edgardo’s fiancee, “Maria,” told her that Edgardo would need to appear in Ecuador for an interview.

Edgardo took time off from work, dropped what he was doing, and traveled to Ecuador. He brought with him photographs of the couple’s vacation in Panama, Western Union receipts showing that he had been sending money to help support his fiancee, and copies of dozens of emails the couple had exchanged. The consular officer declined to review the evidence, and instead separated the couple and asked them questions such as “When was the first time you made love with your fiancee?” “Why did you wait so long?” “How many times did you make love yesterday after you picked him up from the airport?” “Who took a shower first afterwards?”

The couple was mortified, which caused them to give slightly different answers. Maria’s application was denied because the couple “was unable to demonstrate the bona fide nature of their relationship.”

I advised the couple to skip the appeal, but instead to simply get married and try again. They arranged for a quick marriage, attended only by a few friends and family members. We fully disclosed that the reason for the quick, sparsely attended wedding was the couple’s desire to submit a new application so that they could live together in the United States.

We again provided extensive documentation of the couple’s relationship; photographs of their wedding and honeymoon (another trip to Panama), additional Western Union receipts showing that Edgardo has sent thousands of dollars to help support Maria and her child, and additional emails between the couple.

When Maria appeared for her interview, the consular officer again declined to review the evidence, but instead opined that Edgardo was too old for Maria. The application was denied.

This time we appealed and finally won the case.

Somewhere along the way, I had written to fourteen State Department officials, indicating my feeling that it was inappropriate, and demonstrated inadequate training, for consular officers to ask visa applicants about the intimate details of their relationships. The only response I got was from the chief consul in Ecuador, advising me that these questions were “the only way” to find out if a relationship is bona fide. For the record, as a veteran of hundreds of interviews for marriage-based cases, I have observed hundreds of ways that properly trained officers approach this issue.  Never once have I heard an officer ask questions like this.

It took Edgardo almost five years to be able to bring his wife to the United States. We don’t know how many years it will take for the couple to live down the trauma of being questioned by a stranger about the intimate details of their relationship.

Your electronic I-94, Travel History could be full of errors

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Screenshot of Online I-94 Retrieval Form

Screenshot of Online I-94 Retrieval Form


While you no longer have to worry about replacing a lost or damaged paper I-94, you still have to make sure CBP is doing its job. And you need to worry about more than just your I-94; you also need to make sure that your travel history log is complete and correct!

Recently I had a client go through what I will call ‘the CBP Nightmare.’ Multiple lessons were learned in the process but they all boil down to this: don’t assume CBP is doing their job right.

The CBP Nightmare

It all began with the officer who stamped my client’s passport at the port of entry. According to the stamp, he was approved for a 7-month stay on a B2 visa. The client, having flown multiple times on a B2 since he was a child, concluded this was just a discretionary grant and left it at that.

When my client had a little less than a month of authorized stay (based on the passport stamp), he went online and checked his I-94. The first mistake he saw was the ‘Most Recent Date of Entry.’ The date shown was from 5 trips ago; that is, my client had flown in and out of the U.S. on his B2 five times after the date that was shown! After looking at the Travel History, it was confirmed that CBP had failed to enter my client’s last five entries. This lead to the next mistake: according to the ‘Admit Until Date,’ my client was out of status!

And now, the next episode of the CBP Nightmare: Deferred Inspection.

I have now shown up with my client at the CBP Deferred Inspection Office in Chicago, a small and empty waiting room with a service window. The officer shows up–you have to ring a bell so that an officer will show up at the window–and, without giving us an opportunity to explain why we are there, she immediately tells us that they are no longer giving out paper I-94s and that we need to go online to print them out. Ok, good to know. I handed the officer a full set of copies of my client’s passport, as well as the passport, and printouts of the I-94 and Travel History. I offered the itineraries for all five trips after the one shown in the record, and explained that the last trip that was booked was changed and that my client did not leave the country as scheduled. The officer refused to even look at the itineraries, then she disappeared with passport and copies. We were eventually given back our documents and an updated printout of just the I-94. To our horror, the I-94 indicated that my client was authorized for the standard 6-month period and that he had fallen out of status just a few of days before, which was inconsistent with the information on the passport stamp. We pointed this out to the officer. The officer called her supervisor, and the supervisor instructed the officer to manually correct the stamp on the passport, writing in the previous month, and placing the mark “CWOP” (cancelled without prejudice). They shrugged their shoulders and told us to talk out the rest with CIS. Without prejudice indeed…

But it gets worse. When we get back to the office and check the Travel History, the record shows that my client left the country when he actually didn’t. Apparently, CBP taps only into airlines’ booking records, rather than their boarding records. Then I look through the passport copies that were handed back to me. They kept the page with the original passport stamp! Thankfully, I had made another copy for my records.

Based on the above experience, I have come up with the following:

Tips for the Travelling Nonimmigrant

  1. Check your I-94 and Travel History as soon as possible after your last entry and make sure it’s correct;
  2. Don’t rely on the information on your passport stamp–always check it against the information in your electronic record;
  3. CBP can change official travel documents on the spot with no record of the change–keep good copies of every original document you give them;
  4. Also make sure to keep copies/printouts of the I-94 and Travel History versions you are trying to correct;
  5. Hire an immigration attorney to help you navigate the Deferred Inspection process and help you file a complaint against CBP if necessary.

Raymond’s world travels – Geologist struggles to get permanent residence

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For this blog entry, I will let my readers play the role of the Immigration Service adjudicating officer.

“Raymond” is a geologist who is also an IT expert. At the time he contacted me, he was working in a temporary status (H-1B) for a US research university, in a very unique program. He spent several months at the university creating and perfecting software. Then he took the software with him to the other part of his job, which involved living on a very specialized ship, somewhere out in the Pacific. The project on the ship was funded by an international consortium of about two dozen nations. Its purpose was to study the earth’s core to help predict, and possibly prevent, earthquakes. Using a multi-million dollar budget, the ship uses specially-designed, one-of-a-kind drilling equipment to bring samples up from beneath the ocean floor. Each sample must be carefully analyzed and recorded, using the software that Raymond developed. The information is transmitted to consortium members, who are sometimes using computer systems that are different than the one on the ship. If the software breaks down, or isn’t properly designed in the first place, hundreds of thousands of dollars, or maybe more, in research will be lost.

 In order to get permanent residence for Raymond, I had to show that his work was exceptional, and that it would have nationwide benefits in the United States. I am guessing that very few of my readers’ friends and neighbors would be able to replace Raymond. And I am also guessing that many of my readers would like to know ahead of time if their city was about to be hit by an earthquake. But I will let you each play the role of the adjudicating officer before you read the next paragraph.

 Would Raymond’s employer have sent him out on the ship if his work was not exceptional? Would the consortium have invested many millions of dollars if the work would not have nationwide, and indeed international, benefits?

 The immigration officer found that Raymond’s work was not exceptional, and that it would not have nationwide benefits. It took over a year for me to win the appeal. By then, Raymond and his wife were living in Australia, where his work was appreciated, and where his wife settled into a PhD program that would keep them in Australia for several years.

Raymond is finally about to come back to the United States, now that his wife has finished her PhD. He is on the ship right now, and will be back at the university, further refining the software, in a few months.

For the past five years or so, the international consortium has had to do without his services.