U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
Office of Public Affairs
The U.S. Embassy in Nassau is open for emergency visa appointments and U.S. Customs and Border Protection Ports of Entry are prepared, should Bahamians request to temporarily relocate to the United States.
All travelers applying for admission to the United States via air or sea must meet the following document requirements for admission to ensure a lawful and orderly arrival to the United States.
The bottom line is that all travelers must possess government-issued identity documents, such as passports. All travelers who arrive directly to a U.S. Port of Entry by air or sea must possess a U.S. visitor’s visa. Travelers who would otherwise qualify for the Visa Waiver Program and who travel by air from a CBP Preclearance facility in Freeport or Nassau may not need a U.S. visitor’s visa.
CBP Port Directors may use discretion and will consider all exigent circumstances on a case by case basis, in accordance with existing laws and regulations.
CBP recommends that all carriers coordinate evacuations with the Bahamian and U.S. government authorities so that CBP facilities are prepared to quickly and efficiently process arriving passengers. Carriers are also reminded of their Notice of Arrival requirements.
The American Red Cross and the Salvation Army continue to also work with local Florida governments to address any needs of evacuees who seek temporary relocation in the United States.
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The L-1 Visa makes it possible for international companies to move key employees like managers, executives, and professionals with specialized knowledge to offices or facilities in the U.S. There are two types of L-1 Visas available depending upon the scope and requirements of the employee’s work. The criteria for each type are exacting and somewhat complicated. Making a successful application for an L-1 Visa depends largely on a strong demonstration that the job in question requires an executive, manager or specialized knowledge employee and, further, that the foreign employee your company is seeking to transfer has the requisite qualifications to serve in the position.
L-1A Visas For Managers And Executives
Under immigration law, an applicant for an L-1A Visa must be primarily engaged in a managerial role in the company. This includes supervising and directing the work of professionals, supervisors, or other managers, and having the authority to hire, fire, grant promotions, authorize leaves of absence or have the power to recommend such actions. Holding the title of manager, especially with front-line management duties, is not enough to qualify; the employees under supervision must be professionals, supervisors, or managers, not “rank and file” employees. L-1A Visas are granted in increments of 2 or 3 years and can be renewed up to 7 years total.
L-1B Visas For Professionals With Specialized Knowledge
The legal definition of “specialized knowledge” for immigration purposes is somewhat different from what is commonly understood as specialized. To apply for an L-1B Visa, a foreign employee must have knowledge that cannot easily be transferred to another person without significant economic impact to the employer. Further, it must be demonstrated that the job requires this knowledge. A successful L-1B application will demonstrate that an employee’s expertise goes beyond that of their peers. For example, advanced knowledge of proprietary systems or unique methodologies used by the company. L-1B Visas are issued in or 2 or 3 year increments and can be valid for a total of 5 years.
Get Experienced Legal Help With L-1 Visas
The application process for L-1 Visas can be intimidating, and presenting the strongest possible case for an L-1A or L-1B Visa takes experience. Call the immigration attorneys at Overstreet, Miles, Cumbie & Finkenbinder for a consultation, and we’ll explain how we can help your company make the best legal arguments possible in L-1 Visa applications for your employees.
United States immigration laws allow people who demonstrate exceptional or outstanding abilities in their fields of expertise to apply for a Green Card based on their extraordinary abilities. Green Cards based on extraordinary ability fall into the first employment-based preference category (EB-1) and provide a great opportunity for qualified applicants to become permanent residents. Demonstrating that you qualify; however, can be a challenging and time-consuming process.
How Is The EB-1 Green Card Different?
The EB-1 Green Card is considered an employment-based immigration visa, though the people who qualify for an EB-1 Green Card don’t require a specific job offer awaiting them in the United States, as with other types of employment-based Green Cards. Applicants must demonstrate that they have extraordinary ability in their field and that they intend to work in that field once in the United States.
What Qualifies A Person For An EB-1 Extraordinary Ability Green Card?
People who have reached the top of their professions or fields may be qualified to apply under the EB-1 program. Almost any field or profession can qualify. Common fields for approved EB-1 Green Card applicants include artists, musicians, performers, athletes, scientists, engineers, business professionals and medical professionals, but that’s not an exclusive list by any means.
In general, applicants for EB-1 Green Cards need to demonstrate their extraordinary ability by proving that they’ve been recognized with national or international prizes or awards, such as a Nobel Prize, or by giving evidence that they satisfy at least three of the following requirements:
- Receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence
- Membership in professional associations that demand outstanding achievement of their members
- Published material about you in professional or major trade publications, or other major media
- Serving as a judge of the work of others, either individually or on a panel
- Original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic, or business-related contributions of major significance to the field
- Authorship of scholarly articles published in professional or major trade publications or other major media
- Artwork displayed in professional exhibitions or showcases
- Performance of a leading or critical role in distinguished organizations
- High salary or other significantly higher remuneration than others in the field
- Commercial success in the performing arts
Get Help Applying For An EB-1 Extraordinary Ability Green Card
Successfully demonstrating that you qualify for an EB-1 Extraordinary Ability Green Card can be a confusing process that demands a great deal of time and tiresome detail. Working with an experienced immigration attorney can help you stay on top of the voluminous paperwork and exacting deadlines involved. The immigration lawyers at Overstreet Law, P.A. will put their experience to work for you, to give you the best possible chance of a successful petition. Call or contact us online for a confidential consultation.
For some people, applying for an immigrant visa or a Green Card is a straightforward process, and they may decide to handle the matter on their own. For many more people, though, the process involves questions and complications. Whether you’re applying for immigration documents for yourself and your family, or you’re an employer trying to hire a foreign-born person who has the skills and experience you need, you may find that hiring an immigration attorney will help you navigate this complicated system with more success than going it alone.
For People Seeking Immigration Documents
There are several types of Green Cards available to people who want to immigrate to the United States, and some people qualify for more than one kind of category. It’s not always obvious which will ultimately be best for your specific situation. An experienced immigration lawyer can help determine the best category with greatest chances of success and help navigate this often complicated process. Situations where you will definitely want to talk to a lawyer include:
- Applications based on family ties where relationships have changed, like divorce or separation, or a child born out of wedlock;
- Applications for people who have been arrested, charged with a crime or convicted of a crime;
- People who are facing deportation proceedings;
- Applications that were previously denied.
For Employers Trying To Hire Foreign Nationals
If you’re an employer and you want to sponsor a worker who is a foreign national for a Green Card, there are very specific (and complicated) rules you have to follow. The labor certification process (PERM), for example is extremely complex, time-consuming and fraught with challenges. From including the required language in job advertisements placed in approved outlets through correctly completing the paperwork on a rigorous set of deadlines, there are many ways to make a tiny mistake that could cause the application to be denied. Many employers find it well worthwhile to hire an immigration attorney to guide them through the PERM process for the best chance at a successful outcome.
Consult An Immigration Lawyer In Kissimmee
If you’re confused by your options or by the paperwork required for your application you should consult a qualified immigration lawyer. Many people mistakenly believe that immigration officers or immigration consultants are able to provide the same information or services that attorneys provide on a daily basis. Consultants and other non-lawyers do not receive formal legal training at accredited U.S. law schools, they cannot legally provide immigration advice, there is no requirement that they act in your best interest, they are not required to keep your personal information confidential. Indeed, non-lawyers are not subject to any regulation or oversight by any professional association or state agency. If you’re uncertain on how to proceed or you have questions, the immigration lawyers at Overstreet Law, P.A. will be happy to speak with you. Give us a call or contact us online for a confidential immigration consultation and we’ll let you know how we can help.
Approximately 30 million people have immigrated to the United States since 1990, and the U.S. government issues about one million green cards each year. The term green card is slang for an Alien Registration Card (I-551) which certifies that a person is a “lawful permanent resident” of the United States. A green card is different than a nonimmigrant visa, which is temporary and usually issued to someone coming to the country for a specific purpose such as school or business.
The process of getting a green card can be complicated and it can take a long time. “Immigration is a complicated area of law,” said Timothy Finkenbinder, a Kissimmee attorney who has worked in the field of immigration law for more than 20 years. He equates it to doing your taxes. “You look at the forms and it doesn’t look all that difficult, but we all know tax laws are incredibly complicated. Immigration is the same way.”
An attorney familiar with immigration law can help explain the process to applicants, provide a checklist of needed documents, identify issues that might come up and how to address them.
“People often don’t know what documents should be led and do not understand that what they say on the application is attested to under oath,” Finkenbinder said. “People often get themselves in trouble because they are afraid to disclose information that is actually harmless.”
An attorney can also provide a realistic timeline. Some green card categories may be approved in as little as six months, while other categories may take up to 10 years or longer.
Immediate relatives include spouses, minor children (under 21), and parents of U.S. citizens. A stepchild is included in this category, if the marriage occurred before the child’s 18th birthday.
The five family-based preference categories that have annual quotas are:
- Adult children of U.S. citizens (older than 21)
- Spouses of green card holders
- Children of green card holders
- Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens
- Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens
Finkenbinder urges people to be cautious when responding to ads or solicitations from immigration consultants.
“Talking to a lawyer can make a life-changing difference,” he said.
Overstreet Law, P.A.
The process of naturalization is the most common path for people who were not born as citizens of the United States to gain US citizenship. Completing the application for naturalization (or USCIS form N-400) and successfully demonstrating that you meet all the eligibility requirements can be time-consuming and complex, and the process is likely to go more smoothly if you’re working with an experienced immigration attorney.
Application For Naturalization Overview
Once you’ve reviewed and believe that you meet the eligibility criteria for naturalization, the process begins with filing your application and ends, in the best case, with you swearing the Oath of Allegiance and receiving your Certificate of Naturalization. The length of time needed for the entire process depends on your particular case and on the caseload of the service center you’re working through. Currently, USCIS estimates an average of 6 months, from the date your application is filed, though that time can vary significantly.
- Application – If you are at least 18 years old and have been a legal permanent resident for at least five years (three years if you are married to a US citizen), and you meet other eligibility requirements, like a clean criminal background check, and successful scores on the English language and citizenship testing you may qualify for naturalization. After you submit your USC IS form N-400 and the required documentation to support your application, you’ll be able to get an estimate of processing time and status of your application online.
- Biometrics – After your application is reviewed and found complete, you’ll get a notice advising you of an appointment for biometrics. This is when you will be photographed and fingerprinted and will consent to an FBI criminal background investigation.
- Interview & Testing – Once your biometrics have been successfully processed, USCIS will schedule you for your naturalization interview, English language testing and civics test.
- Oath Ceremony – The final step in the process is attending a ceremony to swear the Oath of Allegiance and receive your Certificate of Naturalization. When those two things are done, you are immediately recognized as a US citizen.
If you have ever been arrested or convicted of any crime you should consult an attorney before filing an application for naturalization. Even if there is no conviction, arrests and certain conduct can pose serious issues for applicants. Other factors that may impact the success of your naturalization case may include divorce, failure to disclose important information such as children during the green card application process, physical presence requirements or issues relating to green card abandonment.
An Experienced Immigration Attorney Can Smooth The Way
If you’re getting ready to apply for naturalization, or your application has been denied and you need help moving forward, the immigration attorneys at the Kissimmee Law Firm of Overstreet Law, P.A. will work with you to get your application file properly. Contact us for a confidential consultation and we’ll give you a clear picture of how we can help.
The H-1B Visa program allows U.S. companies to hire foreign workers in specialty occupations which require a bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience for entry into the field. Because Congress has limited the number of foreign nationals that U.S. workers may employ in these positions. This limitation or quota, has resulted in an “H-1B cap season” as demand for these visas far outstrips supply (many U.S. company’s have simply moved parts of their operations overseas due to their inability to bring top talent to the U.S. as a result of the cap). The H-1B cap season begins on the first business day of April usually ends 3 to 5 days.
During this 3 to 5-day period, employers must submit their H1-B applications to USCIS for consideration. Inevitably, there are more applicants than there are available visas and a lottery system is used to determine who will be considered for an H-1B visa. In 2018, there were only 65,000 visas available with nearly 200,000 applicants. H-1B visas are typically granted for a three-year period, but that may be extended to a maximum of six years (exceptions exist under AC21).
Florida employers who hire foreign workers might find the process a bit more challenging than they are used to in the coming years. As immigration continues to take center stage at the national level, employers and foreign workers must take extra care with their visa applications and renewals to ensure workers can obtain initial approval and legally remain in their U.S. jobs once approved.
Tips For Submitting H-1B Visa Applications
USCIS will use any excuse to remove an applicant from the lottery pool. Take extra care when completing the application and make sure all required documentation is provided.
- Start Early. Deadlines are absolute and late or incomplete applications will not be accepted. Employers and applicants should begin preparing their applications in January, or even earlier, in order to be ready to file their paperwork in April.
- Plan for RFEs. Request for Evidence used to be infrequent but over the las 5 to 10 years have now become common place.. RFEs are the new norm. Plan to provide additional documentation and do not panic if you receive an RFE request.
- Be Prepared for Changes at any Time. Be vigilant about changes to current H-1B requirements and processing procedures which can change quickly.
- Explore your Options. If you are not selected or miss the deadline, there may be other visa alternatives. Speak to an immigration law attorney regarding eligibility for L-1, O-1, E-3, or H-1B1 options. In some instances labor certification may also be an option where long term employment is anticipated.
Seek Legal Help For Employment-Based Visas
Immigration applications are being scrutinized like never before. We cannot stress enough the need to make sure every application is properly prepared, supported with the appropriate evidence and that all of the statutory requirements are explained. All visa options should be fully explored.
Contact the immigration attorneys at Overstreet Law, P.A. in Kissimmee, FL for help securing employment-based visas, like the H1-B, or for assistance in hiring foreign workers.
Contact our team at 407.847.5151 to arrange a consultation.
Getting a USCIS Green Card is an important step and a proud moment for people who want to live permanently and work in the United States. A Green Card, or permanent residence, opens the door to many opportunities such enabling individuals to permanently live and work in the U.S., along with providing a path to citizenship for those who wish to become U.S. citizens. Even with the cooperation of an eligible family member, it can be a challenge to get all the bases covered properly which can lead to unnecessary delays or even denials. Working with an experienced immigration lawyer can help avoid common pitfalls associated with green card denials and delays.
Immediate Relatives versus Preference Categories
The Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”) divides family based immigrants into two categories, “immediate relatives” and “preference based immigrants”. Immediate relatives are permitted to immigrate at any time and there is no limitation on the number of individuals who may immigrate in these categories. For example, the parents, spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens are permitted to immigrate at any time. Of course, they must file the necessary applications and evidence and go through the proper processes but there is no limit on how many individuals can immigrate in these categories.
Family members in the “preference categories”; however, are subject to statutory quotas or annual limits. Because the number of “green cards” USCIS is permitted to issue each year is limited in these categories, waiting times can be lengthy. The preference categories include the following:
- First preference: Unmarried, adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens. (Age 21 or older)
- Second Preference (2A): Spouses of green card holders, unmarried children (under age 21) of permanent residents
- Second Preference (2B): Unmarried adult sons and daughters (any age) of permanent residents
- Third Preference: Married sons and daughters (any age) of U.S. citizens
- Fourth Preference: Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens
Most I-551 cards (green cards) are issued with a validity period of 10 years; however, in some situations a green card may be “conditional”. A conditional green card, or conditional permanent resident, receives a card that is valid for 2 years and specific conditions must be met in order for the “conditions” to be removed and a 10 year card issued. Filing in the specified time frames to remove conditions is critical as both the Obama administration and Trump administration have followed a policy of initiating removal proceedings against individuals who fail to file to remove conditions in the required timeframe. If you are subject to conditions, a lawyer can assist you in making sure your application to remove conditions is timely filed and has the right supporting evidence.
Experienced Immigration Attorneys
The Kissimmee Law Firm of Overstreet Law, P.A. is experienced in helping clients get their green cards, so they can enjoy the freedom and security that permanent residence provides. Contact us by calling 407-847-5151 to schedule a consultation, and we’ll tell you how we can help and what you can expect from the process.
Notario fraud has been a problem for decades. This type of fraud occurs when individuals represent themselves as legal professionals, but are not actually admitted to practice law in a jurisdiction in the United States. In Florida, as with other states, it is a felony for a non-attorney to practice law without license. Individuals of Hispanic descent are particularly susceptible to notario fraud due to language issues surrounding the use of the terms “notaria”, “escribano” or “notario public.” It is actually illegal in Florida to utilize these terms due to the confusion they create. Unlike many Spanish speaking countries, where notaries serve specific legal functions and may receive legal training, notaries in the U.S. receive no such training and are authorized to perform very limited functions. They are not attorneys and may not represent individuals in immigration or other legal proceedings. Sadly, immigrants are common victims of notario fraud often perpetrated by their fellow countrymen.
What Is Notario Fraud?
“Notarios” and “immigration consultants” are individuals who do not have law degrees, yet offer their services to immigrants in need of legal advice and representation. They rely on false advertising and fraudulent contracts to gain clients then leave those clients in the lurch. Sometimes, notaries charge fees but never perform the service. In other cases, they miss deadlines, file forms incorrectly, or damage their clients’ case in some other manner.
Victims of notario fraud can lose their chance to pursue immigration relief because of the notario’s actions. By then, of course, the notario is long gone and the immigrant is left in a worse situation than when the whole process began. Notario fraud often goes undetected until the immigrant realizes the damage that has been done and consults an immigration attorney for help. By then they could be in a dire situation and be out the hundreds or thousands of dollars that they paid to the notario.
A Language Gap
Part of the problem can be attributed to a language gap. “Notario publico” translates to notary public. Here in the United States being a notary public only gives the person the authority to witness signatures. However, in other countries, particularly Latin America and Europe, the term means something very different. In those countries a “notario publico” is someone who has the equivalent of a law license and can legally represent others before the government.
Immigrants, used to the laws of their own country, naturally gravitate towards what they know and they know a “notario publico” can help them with legal matters. Unfortunately, many unscrupulous individuals take advantage of this and swindle immigrants.
Always Consult An Immigration Attorney On Immigration Matters
The single best way to avoid immigration problems is to make sure the individual you are consulting is a qualified immigration attorney who is licensed to practice immigration law in the United States.
Today’s global economy means U.S. businesses are welcoming employees from all over the world, but increased enforcement by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) means employers need to be especially vigilant about their foreign workers’ ability to legally work in the United States.
That puts the onus on employers to verify the identities and employment eligibility of their employees. It’s not enough to simply ask the prospective employee questions about his or her immigration status.
The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 requires employees to provide proof that they are legally authorized to work in the U.S.. Employers are also required to document employee work authorization by completing USCIS Form I-9. The Form I-9 must be completed for all employees and where an employee has an employment document that has an expiration date, the employer is required to re-verify employment eligibility on or before the expiration date of the document. The Form I-9 instructions provide a list of acceptable documentation that employees may use to satisfy the I-9 requirements.
It should be noted that there are numerous documents that may be used to establish employment eligibility. Employers should be familiar with these documents and how they impact the employer’s ongoing requirement to maintain I-9 records. Employers should not request additional documents other than what is necessary to meet the basic I-9 requirements lest they face claims of national origin discrimination. Hiring workers who aren’t legally able to work in the U.S. can also have serious repercussions for an employer. Employers may face civil or criminal fines and penalties if they violate immigration hiring requirements in any way.
Navigating immigration law is a complex undertaking. We always recommend that our clients have immigration hiring policies in place and evaluate them periodically to ensure they offer full compliance with current immigration laws. A strong, uniform policy creates consistent corporate hiring practices and helps protect the employer from immigration-related hiring issues. Employers should always consult with a qualified immigration attorney when implementing I-9 verification and record retention policies.
Timothy L. Finkenbinder
Attorney at Law
Overstreet Law P.A.