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Unlawful Presence: Myths and Realities by Ron Gotcher
ImmInfo Newsletter "Unlawful presence" myths and realities
Unlawful Presence: Myths and Realities
Recently, the USCIS released a new policy memorandum on the subject of “unlawful presence.” Because of its length and the poor quality of the writing, there has been a great deal of confusion resulting from it. We would like to clarify a few of the more egregious misunderstandings that have taken root as a result of this memorandum.
A person who applies for adjustment of status while in lawful status, and thereafter allows his or her nonimmigrant status to expire is not going to be deported.
The new memo makes it clear that when someone applies for adjustment of status, they are thereafter present with the permission of the Secretary of DHS. As such, they do not accrue unlawful presence even if their nonimmigrant status expires. While technically they may be subject to removal, the CIS does not attempt to remove them for a very practical reason. If the immigration service institutes removal proceedings against someone who is eligible for adjustment of status, that person will simply renew their application before the immigration judge. Immigration will have wasted a great deal of time and energy and accomplished nothing. There is no possible reason that would compel the immigration authorities to change their current policy and begin trying to remove people with valid pending adjustment of status applications.
Nonimmigrants are not required to maintain their status after filing for adjustment of status.
Some writers have said that AOS applicants must continue to maintain their nonimmigrant status after filing for adjustment of status. They are wrong. In many cases, attempting to do so would involve visa fraud and render the applicant ineligible to adjust status. Certain nonimmigrant categories, such as B, F, J, and M are “single intent” categories. If someone who is actively in the process of immigrating to the United States attempted to extend status in a category where they are required by law to have a good faith intent to leave the United States and return to their home country to resume their residence there, that would be an act of fraud. You can swear on the one hand that you intend to return to your home country immediately upon the expiration of your nonimmigrant status, while on the other continue to request permanent resident status in the United States. Filing this type of application would do positive harm to your case.
It is not necessary to maintain H1B status after filing for adjustment of status, and in many cases doing causes harm to the applicant.
There is really only one valid reason for an adjustment of status applicant to maintain H1B nonimmigrant status after filing for AOS. That is the situation where the H1B has a spouse or child who has not filed for AOS and requires an H4 visa in order to remain in the United States. Other than this situation, there is no valid reason for someone to try to maintain H1B status after filing for AOS.
Maintenance of H-1B status is not without cost. The CIS filing fees are $320, plus $500 for the anti-fraud fee it is a first filing (such as an employer transfer), and $750 to $1,500 for the ACWIA fee. This does not include attorney’s fees. There are two other “costs” that must be counted as well. If you travel, you must have a valid H-1B visa to re-enter. This means that you may have expend time and money renewing your H visa. Also, with an H visa, you may not accept work from anyone other than your petitioning employer. Otherwise, you are in violation of your H status.
Historically, I’ve heard three main arguments I’ve in favor of using H-1B. First, there is the “just in case” argument. To me, this falls into the “monsters under the bed” or fear of the dark kind of superstitious dread argument. “I don’t know what might happen, but I want to keep my H-1B just in case.” I’ve always felt that if you can’t articulate the reason for doing something, it isn’t a very good reason.
The second reason is a concern that if the applicant’s I-485 is denied, the applicant can revert to H-1B status. I believe this to be a specious argument also. Most I-485 denials result from I-140 denials. If your I-140 has been approved, the odds of your I-485 being denied drop to almost zero. The two remaining reasons for I-485 denials are status violations prior to filing and fraud. Both of these reasons impact H-1B validity as well and if an I-485 is denied for either reason, it is doubtful that the applicant would be allowed to resume H-1B status.
The third reason, and in my opinion the only valid reason, arises in unusual situations where the principal applicant has applied for adjustment of status but his or her spouse hasn’t. In such cases, it is essential that the principal applicant maintain H-1B status so that the spouse remains eligible for H-4 status.
There is one other important consideration with respect to maintaining H-1B status while applying for adjustment of status (AOS). I’ve seen situations involving individuals who elected to stay in H status while applying for AOS and traveled abroad using their H visas and were laid off unexpectedly while abroad, or other saw their H petitioner go out of business suddenly. All were left high and dry overseas with no way to return to the US. If they tried to use their H visas, they would be guilty of visa fraud at entry and thus ineligible for adjustment of status.
Finally, AOS applicants who have given up H status should understand that there is nothing to prevent them from re-applying for H classification should something go disastrously wrong with their AOS application. If the applicant is still eligible for H classification, there is nothing to prevent them from re-acquiring it later.
Employment authorization documents (EAD) are presently valid for one year at a time, unless you have an approved I-140, in which case they will issue them for two years. Advance parole (AP) documents are presently valid for only one year. The EAD/AP combination provides an applicant with a simple, inexpensive alternative to trying to maintain H status while applying for AOS. More importantly, EADs give an applicant job flexibility. With an EAD, an AOS applicant who wishes to exercise his or her right to job portability need only show an EAD card in order to accept new employment immediately. Similarly, an applicant who travels and uses AP as a re-entry document need never bother with having to make an appointment and apply for a new visa while abroad.
Finally, the CIS is now looking closely at the issue of unauthorized employment after filing for AOS. With an EAD, as long as you keep it current, it is impossible for you to engage in unauthorized employment. With an H1B, you are very strictly constrained by the LCA and H petition terms. If you or your employer deviate in any way, you risk violating your H status and thereafter engaging in unauthorized employment. The EAD path is far safer.
Copyright © 2009 The Gotcher Law Group, PC - All Rights Reserved
Thank you for the post.
This is a nice comprehensive analysis by Ron.
Eventhough the issue of maitaining other non-immigrant status (like H or L) is still up for the debate, he did clarify the very confusing memo from CIS.
PERM filed: Feb 2008 Chicago Processing Center
PERM approved: March 2008
I 140 filed: April 2008 Nebraska Service Center
I 140 approved: Sep 2008 Nebraska Service Center
EB1A: I 140 filed: July 2009. Approved 12/09
EB2 NIW: I 140 filed: July 2009. Approved 12/09
I-485 filed Dec 2009
I-485 approved April 2010
Minor H4 Out of Status ; less than 180 days
I need some advice.
Both my husband and I are on valid H1.
1. H1 Visa is Stamped for next 3 yrs
1. Recently changed employers. Have my I-797 and I-94 Approval notice.
2. Visa yet to be stamped.
3. Visa valid till Apr 2013 (6th yr)
We have a 5 year old son who has always been listed as my dependant. When I changed jobs, the employer failed to apply for his H4. ( they claim they assumed he was US Born, even though I had him listed as my dependant on their questionnaires). My fault, I should have also actively followed up.
Anyway, the H4 expired in Feb2012. We are today into Apr 2012.
My Question(s) are :
1. The earliest we can leave for India is May end 2012. (that would be his 4th month of 'out of status' )
2. I believe that the 3/10yr re-entry ban does not apply to minors. Can someone please confirm?
3. How easy/difficult would it be at the India, Mumbai Consulate to get his H4 stamped? What questions can we anticipate? Is there a possibility that they may put his under 'Enquiry'? We definitely want to avoid a situation where he is left in India and we are allowed back!!
4. Since I have only 1 yr left, is it advisable to get him under my H1? Does that even matter?
(We do have a GC -LCA and I-140 approved for my husband, with us listed as dependants.)
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