Highlights From 2013 AILA National Conference
Recently, I attended the 2013 AILA (American Immigration Lawyers Association) national conference in San Francisco. This conference brings together some of the best and brightest immigration practitioners nationwide. After attending numerous sessions, I gained new insight into a variety of topics. Below are some of the main highlights:
- Nonimmigrants who are accustomed to receiving paper I-94 cards upon entry into the United States may be pleased to hear that Customs now issues paperless I-94s to those traveling by air or sea. The foreign national will be able to print a computer-generated copy of the paperless I-94 online here. It is a good idea to review the computer version for accuracy and then print and staple the I-94 into a passport.
- During the Conference, on June 26th, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, also known as DOMA. This action paved the way for same-sex marriages to be recognized for the purpose of federal benefits, including immigration benefits. The Department of Homeland Security confirmed that U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents can now file relative petitions for their same-sex spouses.
- In my blog post on Extreme Hardship Waivers In Immigration Cases, I discussed the new USCIS provisional waiver, which allows certain immigrant visa applicants to apply for an unlawful presence waiver from within the U.S. rather than leaving the U.S. to pursue the waiver. Conference speakers stated that, to date, a relatively high percentage of these waivers were being approved. If your family can make a case for “extreme hardship” should the immigrant visa be denied, then consider pursuing the provisional waiver. Conference speakers also stated, however, that criminal convictions – even for minor offenses – are resulting in denial of the provisional waiver.
- Conference speakers referenced a large number of Requests for Evidence (RFEs) and denials for L-1 visa applicants. Even if you have successfully petitioned for an L-1, this does not mean your renewal application will be automatically granted. USCIS is placing extra scrutiny on the “specialized knowledge” an applicant must have in order to obtain the L-1B visa.
- Speakers at the conference predicted that the Visa Bulletin would show gains in the F2A (Spouses and Children of Lawful Permanent Residents) category. The August 2013 Visa Bulletin confirms this, as the category is “C” for current. This means that green card applications can be filed for those spouses and children of lawful permanent residents who are in the U.S., in lawful status, and have an approved I-130 petition. Those individuals outside the U.S. in the same category can receive Immigrant Visas if their I-130 petition has been approved.
- During the Conference, the Senate passed a landmark immigration bill by a vote of 68-32. This bill would grant legal status to potentially millions of undocumented immigrants. The House, however, has stalled on bringing the same bill to a vote, with House Speaker John Boehner vowing not to bring the bill to the floor unless a majority of House Republicans support it. The result may be a vote on piecemeal legislation that is not as comprehensive as the Senate’s bill.
Stay tuned to this blog for updates on the constantly changing field of immigration law.