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You have to file Form I-131 to apply for a re-entry permit, refugee travel document or advance parole travel document, to include parole into the US for humanitarian reasons.

Advance Parole is for applicants who have a pending Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status to Permanent Resident, and who want to travel before the Application is approved. A Refugee Travel Document is for applicants who hold Refugee or Asylee status and who want to travel outside the US. Re-entry Permit is for Lawful Permanent Residents who will be abroad for an extended period of time, generally one year or more.

If you are filing Form I-131 based on your pending or approved Form I-821, you are required to file form I-131 with the USCIS Dallas Lockbox facility. Make sure you include a copy of the I-797 C Notice of Action that shows that your application was accepted or approved. If you are applying for renewal of your advance parole document , the USCIS will accept and adjudicate Form I-131 filed up to 120 days before the date your current Advance Parole document expires.

All Refugee Travel Document applicants or one for a Reentry Permit must complete biometrics at an Application Support Center (ASC) or if applying for a Refugee Travel Document while outside of the U.S. at an overseas USCIS facility. If you are between 14 and 79 years of age and you are applying for a Refugee Travel Document or Re-entry Permit, you must also be fingerprinted as part of USCIS biometric services requirements. After you have filed this application, USCIS will inform you in writing of the time/location of your biometrics appointment. It is important to remember that if you do not appear to be fingerprinted or for other biometric services, it might lead to denial of your application.

 

Applicants for Re-entry Permit and/or Refugee Travel Documents between 14 and 79 years of age have to pay the additional $85 biometric fee. The submission fee while filing for advance parole or re-entry permit is $360 and for a Refugee Travel Document for an individual aged 16 or older is $135. For a child under the age of 16 years, it is $105. For individuals aged between 14 and 79, a biometric fee of $85 is necessary for a Reentry Permit and a Refugee Travel Document , unless the applicant resides outside of the US at the time of filing their form. Note that there is no biometric fee required for advance parole applicants. The submission fee and biometrics services fee may be paid with a single check for $445 and it must be made payable to the DHS.

The term Dual citizenship means an individual is a citizen of two countries at the same time. It is also possible for one to be a citizen of three or more countries. However, what should be noted is that all countries have their own laws regarding multiple citizenship. There are countries that allow it and others do not and there are some countries that do not have any particular laws regarding this.

Dual citizenship with America

Dual citizenship is not something that can be applied for but it happens when a person becomes a citizen of another country apart form his/her country of birth. Some persons are entitled for multiple citizenship automatically. For example, if a child is born in the US gets dual citizenship as the child automatically becomes a citizen of the US and also a citizen of the child’s parent’s home country. Similarly, children of US citizens born abroad become dual citizens where the child becomes both a US citizen and a citizen of the country where he/she was born.

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) does not clearly define dual citizenship. It neither takes a strong position for or against it. Though there are no restrictions against such citizenship, some provisions under the INA and earlier US immigration laws were framed in such a way that it reduces situations in which dual citizenship exists. It is a mandatory practice for persons getting naturalized to undertake an oath renouncing previous allegiances to other countries. However, the oath has never been enforced for the actual termination of the individuals original citizenship.

The US does not endorse dual citizenship, but it recognizes its existence and accepts the maintenance of multiple citizenship by its citizens. Earlier, there were claims of other countries on dual-national American citizens that sometimes put them in a situation where their obligations to one country were conflicting with the laws of the other country. However, as fewer countries need military service and most base other obligations, as payment of taxes, mainly on residence and not citizenship, such conflicts have come down significantly. Off late, there is an increase in the number of persons who maintain their US citizenship in another country.

If you become a citizen of another country, the US will no longer consider you as its citizen. But it does not mean that it is same the other way around. If you are a citizen of another country and become a US citizen, depending on the laws of your country, that country may still recognize you as a citizen.

As mentioned earlier, not all countries allow dual citizenship. If you are from a country that allows dual citizenship with the US and similarly the other way round, you can become a US citizen through the naturalization process by filing the US citizenship application, Form N-400 with the USCIS.

One of the important requirements while applying for US citizenship is that you should be a person of good moral character. You will not considered to be of “good moral character” if you had committed certain crimes during the last five years before you file the citizenship application. It also implies that you should not lie during your naturalization interview.

Some of the behaviors that indicate lack of good moral character are

• Drunk driving or being drunk most of the time.

• Illegal gambling.

• Prostitution.

• Telling lies to get immigration benefits.

• Not paying court-ordered child support.

• Committing terrorist acts.

• Persecuting someone due race, religion, national origin, political opinion, or social group reasons.

Remember if you have committed certain specific crimes, you cannot apply for citizenship and also you might most likely be removed from the US. These crimes are known as “bars” to naturalization. Aggravated felonies (if committed on or after November 29, 1990) are murder, rape, sexually abusing a child, violent assault, treason, illegal trafficking in drugs, firearms, or people fall under permanent bars to naturalization. Also note that in many instances, if you were exempted or discharged from serving in the US Armed Forces because you were an immigrant or if you deserted from the US Armed Forces, you might be permanently barred from Citizenship. Behaving in other ways that indicate you lack good moral character will also lead to denial of citizenship. Other crimes come under temporary bars to the naturalization process. Such crimes generally will prevent you from becoming a citizen for up to five years after you committed the crime.

While applying for US citizenship, it is very important that you report any crime that you committed. Even if the crime was removed from your record or committed before your 18th birthday, you have to report that. If you try hiding such information with the USCIS, they might deny citizenship and most importantly you could be prosecuted. So ensure that you are transparent with any information.

If you need assistance with any immigration issue, you can avail the services of a licensed immigration lawyer. Contact the local bar association to get a qualified lawyer. Some states also certify specialists in US immigration law. Anyhow, you have to take the responsibility to determine whether to hire a particular attorney. If you are looking for legal help on an immigration issue, but you can afford to pay to hire a lawyer, there are some low cost or free assistance options.

Having a green card means getting legal residence status in the US. With a green card, you are allowed to enter, work and live permanently in the US. There are different classifications through which you can get a green card.

The Green Card Lottery Program

The green card lottery, also called the Diversity Visa (DV) lottery program is a very good opportunity for foreign nationals to get permanent legal resident status. Through this program 50,000 foreign nationals get a green card. This DV lottery program is conducted every year. Applicants will be selected randomly by a computer and all entrants are required to fulfill certain simple eligibility requirements. It is important to note that not all countries qualify for this program. So the first eligibility criteria you have to meet is that you have to be a native of a qualifying country. Qualifying country generally is your country of birth and is not where you live. The second requirement is that the entrant should have at least a high school education or its equivalent.

If more than 50,000 persons in the family and employment based visa classification came to the US in the last five years from a particular country, this country will not be eligible for the current year’s DV program. Also remember, if you qualify, you have to submit only one entry. If you happen to submit more than one entry, you will be disqualified. But if a husband and wife each meet the eligibility requirements, they are permitted to submit one entry each.

If you do not belong to a qualifying country, you can apply if your spouse is from a qualifying country. In such instances, both the entrant and the spouse have to come to the US together if selected. The applicant’s children (below 21 years) who were entered in the entrant’s application can come along with their parents during the US visit. Qualifying through the country of birth of either of your parents as long as neither of your parents was a resident of an ineligible country at the time of your birth is also another option to qualify.

The Process

The Kentucky Consular Center takes care of the process. Here all the entries received will be separately numbered and a computer will randomly select from those for each geographic region. Since it is done this way, all the entries have the same chance of getting selected. Since the entries are submitted online, all applicants will receive an unique confirmation number. They can check the results online using this number. Remember, winners will not be notified by post or through email.

The Kentucky Consular Center will send appointment letters to the selected individuals four to six weeks before the interview with the US consular officers abroad. Though the lottery program is free, those selected are required to pay diversity and immigrant visa fees in person and they have to pay at the US embassy or Consulate at the time of applying for a visa. All applicants can check the status of their application online to know if they are selected or not. If selected, and if they are in the US, they can apply for adjustment of status for permanent residence.

Through the USCIS Electronic Immigration System (USCIS ELIS), individuals can e-file immigration related applications. The system offers accurate, convenient, and secure customer service and through that USCIS can now be able to process cases with more efficiency and consistency. Foreign students can now e-file Form I-539 (Application to extend or change status) through ELIS.

The following information will be of help to Designated School Officials (DSO) and foreign students regarding the ELIS system and how USCIS handles the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) Form I-20, the Arrival-Departure Record Form I-94, and other documents.

The DSO of the institution that accepted the student to study in the US will issue Form I-20 to the foreign student. Form I-20 is needed to apply for a visa , to enter the US and to apply for other benefits.
Form I-20 does not need a stamp to prove status. Though an unstamped Form I-20 is valid, it does not mean lawful status. Some agencies require these students to present a Form I-20 to identify the end date for the student’s program. As mentioned earlier, though a stamp is not needed, USCIS has given a six-month transition and will stamp the form through Nov. 21, 2012.

As a student, you will not have any negative impact on off-campus employment if you have the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and a Form I-20. Additionally, an unstamped Form I-20 will not have any negative impact on applications for other benefits, such as driver’s licenses and state-issued identification cards. USCIS has clearly mentioned it to the Departments of Motor Vehicles (DMVs) that a Form I-20 does not need a stamp to be valid. Also remember that Form I-20 is valid without a stamp. Form I-20 is endorsed when it is signed by a DSO. With this a student will be able to travel internationally or apply for employment authorization.

USCIS normally accepts a photocopy or scanned electronic version of Form I-20 or DS-2019. If the necessity to review the original document arises, USCIS will request you to provide the original document. They will pass a decision electronically. Though the student will receive the approval notice through mail, the scanned copy of the Form I-20 will not be stamped and sent to the student. Form Aug. 10, 2012, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) stopped providing stamps on Forms I-20 and DS-2019 for prospective and returning international students and scholars wishing to enter the United States. This change has enable the CBP processes become consistent with USCIS’s decision to stop stamping the Form I-20.

Make sure you upload all needed supporting documents in USCIS ELIS before making payment and submitting your case for review and further decision. If the need arises, you can also submit additional documentation at any time before a final decision is made on your case. To do so, just login to your USCIS ELIS account and selecting “Upload Additional Documents.” If you have submitted more than one application please make sure you upload the documents in the case for which they apply.

If you encounter any problem as a temporary worker in the US, remember you have certain rights and you can get help. You have to right to be treated and paid fairly. You will not be held in a job against your will. Note that you can have your passport and other documents in your possession. You have the right to report abuse without retaliation and can get help from unions, immigrant and labor rights groups and you can also seek justice in US courts.

If you are treated badly or rights are violated, you can get help if you call these toll-free numbers:

  • National Human Trafficking Resource Center – Toll-Free Hotline 1-888-373-7888
  • Trafficking in Persons and Worker Exploitation Task Force Complaint Line (Monday — Friday, 9am-5pm Eastern Time)1-888-428-7581
  • If you are facing physical danger, Call 911

Ways to protect yourself

Ensure that your passport is kept in a safe and easily accessible place. Have copies of your passport, visa, work contract in your country. Save the phone number of your country’s embassy. Have a record of the days and hours you worked and the amount and date of each payment you received. Help is available at the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline. You can call 1-888-373-7888 (24 hours) or the Trafficking in Persons and Worker Exploitation Task Force Complaint Line at 1-888-428-7581 (weekdays 9am-5pm EST).

Immaterial of you visa status, you have many other rights. If you think these rights are being violated, you can report it to a government enforcement agency. You also have the option of bringing a lawsuit to recover your losses. Remember it is against the law for your employer to try to punish you (threatening to report you to immigration or the police if you try to enforce your rights). If your employer threatens you at any time, get help immediately.

Another important right is the right to get paid for all work you do, just as how U.S. Workers are treated. You can earn at least the federal legal minimum wage $6.55 per hour, and $7.25 per hour ( from July 24, 2009) in the similar fashion as US workers. Verify the minimum wage for the state where you work. Should the wage be higher, you should be paid the higher amount.

You may be eligible for overtime pay of one and a half times the amount of your wage for any hours worked above 40 hours per week. Deduction is something that your employer takes money from your paycheck. Many deductions are considered unlawful if they diminish your legal wage rate. An employer normally will not deduct for housing, most uniforms, safety equipment, or recruitment fees.

You also have the right to not be treated differently or badly at workplace because of your gender, race, national origin, color, religion, or disability. Also remember your employer has to pay the same amount to each worker for the same work and offer each worker the same job opportunities regardless of the worker’s gender, race, national origin, color, religion, or disability. You are not required to speak only in English at work unless there is an important business reason that requires you to speak English.

Regardless of whether you are a woman or a man, note that your employer cannot sexually harass you. The employer should not demand you to do sex acts, touch you in a sexual manner or tell sexual or offensive remarks. As far as hygiene is concerned, you have the right to a safe and clean working condition. If you get injured or get sick at workplace, you can request medical treatment. Mostly, you will be entitled for free medical treatment and part of the wages lost while getting injured. These are only few of the many rights, temporary workers are entitled to.

Demand for Visas

More than 9.6 million visa applications were processed during the year 2011. Out of those, more than 7.5 million U.S. Visas were issued. This was an increase of more than 17 percent over the previous year where 6.4 million visas were issued. There has been a significant increase in demand for visas in some of the world’s fastest-growing economies. In the last five years, visa issuances have increased 234 percent in Brazil, 124 percent in China, 51 percent in India, and 24 percent in Mexico. During 2011, more than one million visas were processed for Chinese foreign nationals. This was an increase of more than 35 percent compared to the previous year.

Sixty million visitors entered the US in 2010, and 35 percent of these visitors entered the US using visas issued by the Department of State. Travel to the US generated $134 billion in revenue and supported 1.1 million US jobs during the year 2010. According to the Department of Commerce, the number of visitors to the US will increase six to nine percent annually for the next five years and is estimated to reach 88 million visitors by the year 2016.

Considering the demand for visas, the Department of State is keeping pace and has more personnel and resources to visa adjudication. The DoS plans to increase visa adjudications by one-third during the year 2012 in both China and Brazil, where there is the greatest increase in visa demand. DoS will be adding 98 visa adjudicators this year and the next year in China and Brazil. The first group of these special recruits will arrive at posts in China and Brazil in the spring of 2012. At some posts in China and Brazil, the department is operating with extended hours. The Department is using many different tools to maximize efficiency and improve security-related screening.

It is a known fact that wait times for visa appointments fluctuate depending on seasonal demand. At most places around the world, visa applicants have to wait less than one week for an interview appointment. The department will send temporary duty officers to manage seasonal hike in demand.

Throughout the world, wait times for student visa interview appointments are less than 15 days. This category is prioritized because of the tremendous intellectual, social, and economic benefits foreign students provide to the US. economy. Per the Department of Commerce, international students contributed nearly $20 billion to the US. economy during 2009-2010.

There are procedures to expedite interview appointments for urgent business travel. US. officials work with American Chambers of Commerce in more than 100 countries to streamline visa processing for people traveling for business. The Department’s Business Visa Center facilitates visa application procedures for American companies and convention organizers who invite employees or current and prospective business clients to the US. The Center handled nearly 3,500 requests during 2011.