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New York Legal Blog

Will the revised citizenship test affect the immigration process?

Becoming a naturalized citizen is the dream of many lawful permanent residents who are living in New York. However, it is not enough to be a lawful resident who is of the right age and good moral character. Although people who are applying for citizenship must meet these requirements, they also have to pass the citizenship test administered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

In 2018, there was a 90% pass rate for the citizenship test. Around 750,000 people successfully passed, marking the highest rate over the past five years. In order to successfully pass the test, a person must correctly answer six of 10 questions that are randomly generated. There are 100 questions in total which address things like American history, government, geography, holidays and symbols. Even though applicants only have to know the answer to six questions, a wide range of knowledge on these various topics is necessary.

Understanding immigration rights when dealing with ICE

Both documented and undocumented immigrants in New York are facing an enormous amount of uncertainty at the moment. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency seems to be stepping up efforts to locate and arrest immigrants who it believes qualify for removal. However, many ICE agents are apparently overstepping their bounds and misrepresenting the law, either intentionally or otherwise. For these reasons, immigrants and citizens alike should understand their rights under the law.

According to reports, ICE is currently looking for approximately 2,000 immigrants who have orders for deportation. However, from Jan. 2016 to Sept. 2018, around 85% of the immigrants that ICE deported either had not been convicted for serious or violent crimes, or had no criminal convictions whatsoever. Additionally, 27,540 legal residents and citizens were interviewed, screened and sometimes even detained in 2018. In 2016, only 5,490 legal residents or citizens went through this process.

Family law: Can I minimize my post-divorce taxes?

It is not uncommon for a person to pay spousal support to his or her ex-spouse after a divorce. Indeed, spousal support is very important to the financial security of a spouse who either earned less or stayed home to care for children. Unfortunately, recent changes to the tax laws affected family law and created a situation where payers might end up paying less while receiving fewer tax benefits. Those tax benefits can be found elsewhere in certain situations.

A New York couple who receives significant gains from investments may already be familiar with the associated tax rates. Gains of $39,475 or less are not taxed at all, and gains from that amount up to $200,000 are only taxed at 15%. Rather than take on monthly alimony payments and the associated taxes, a couple may agree to a lump sum alimony paid by the investment gains.

Immigration processing times affect international students' plans

College classes require a significant amount of time, focus and energy from students. When taking a full class load, many students in New York find that it is impossible to work during the school year. The summer break is an opportune time to find part-time work or to participate in an internship, but some international students were not able to follow through on those plans. Ongoing delays with the immigration process mean that these students were forced to make difficult decisions regarding their summer plans.

The Optional Practical Training program gives international students the opportunity to work in fields related to their studies for up to one year. Students must already have already secured a job or internship before applying for the program, and they can only file 90 days before their scheduled start dates. In the past, this three month waiting period did not pose any problems. The average application took less than 60 days for approval.

Are fathers treated fairly in family law matters?

Despite the increasingly active roles that dads play in the lives of their children, popular entertainment media still tends to portray fathers as incompetent when it comes to child rearing. This is hardly the case for many New York fathers, but the perception of fathers as less caring persists. These biases also show up in family law. In many instances, fathers believe they are treated unfairly in terms of child custody.

The idea of the deadbeat father is widespread, but it is not entirely accurate. Many unmarried fathers want to be actively involved in their children's lives. However, men are often unaware of their rights or are worried about taking their children's mothers to court. Dads in this situation often express that fear of wrongful accusations of violence.

New rules change refugee demographics

Traditionally, the United States takes in more refugees than all other countries combined. The U.S. has accepted more than 3 million refugees since 1975. This includes almost a million since 2003 alone. But new administration policies aim to curb the number of refugees the U.S. resettles. The number of refugees resettled in the U.S. has fallen sharply in recent years.

After accepting a record 108,197 refugees in 2016, the U.S. has resettled less than 30,000 refugees each year since – a ceiling set by the current administration. The U.S. has accepted only 12,151 refugees halfway through the 2019 fiscal year. If this trend continues the U.S. will accept the fewest refugees since 2004.

New immigration rule calls for social media information

With the rise of portable technology and affordable internet, social media has become an everyday part of many people's lives. But is social media usage an accurate reflection of who the average person in New York is? The U.S. Department of State apparently thinks so, which is why immigration applications will now ask for social media information.

The Department of State proposed screening applicants' social media accounts in March 2018. According to the DOS, looking at the content of social media accounts will improve the screening process for visas while facilitating legitimate travel. Looking through an applicant's social media is not exactly a new practice, though. Before the changes, the DOS identified approximately 65,000 applicants every year that required enhanced screening through old emails and social media.

How do criminal convictions affect your immigration process?

Although noncitizens are less likely to commit crimes than those who are, there are important things to know when facing a criminal charge when it comes to immigration status. The outcome of criminal charges often leads to a non citizen entering removal proceedings which is sometimes due to lack of effective counsel. This is important because entering intoremoval proceedings often times leads to deportation. 

Are changes coming to family immigration?

A new proposal could change how new immigrants make their way to New York. While the current immigration system prioritizes those who already have familial ties in the United States, the proposed changes would get rid of family immigration as most people know it. Instead, a point-based system would emphasize those with certain background levels or specialized skills.

Sponsoring a family member to come to the United States is a significant perk of being a citizen or green card holder, but President Trump thinks that the process should have less to do with family ties. His recently released proposal states that factors such as employability should be considered more important. In the points system the likelihood of not just having a job but also the potential to create new jobs in the United States would also be important.

Are my family members eligible for green cards?

For many around the globe, living and working in the United States is a dream. Generations of immigrants have arrived with the hope of starting a new life.

But once you begin your American journey, soon you may want your family members to join. If you have become a citizen of the U.S. or a permanent resident, there may be pathways in which your family can gain green cards as well.

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