Immigration Law

Can Student Legal Services provide representation in immigration matters?
Many visiting foreign student scholars desire to remain in the United States beyond the period of their student visas. Others encounter legal problems while studying in the United States that have an impact on their visa status. Because immigration law is highly specialized, Student Legal Services does not provide representation for students seeking to change and/or protect their visa status. Questions regarding visa problems should be directed to a private attorney specializing in immigration and naturalization law.

Visas
Visa allocations are based on a series of preference categories which extend priority to close relatives of citizens and foreign nationals lawfully admitted for permanent residence, to persons skilled in the professions, arts or sciences, to needed skilled and unskilled laborers and to certain refugees. The immigrant visa category for “professionals” and persons with exceptional ability in arts and sciences is called Third Preference. Before an employer can “sponsor” a worker in one of these categories, the employer must usually obtain a determination from the U.S. Department of Labor that no U.S. workers are qualified and available for that type of position. Universities must certify that a foreign national is the “best qualified” applicant when filling a teaching level position. Because this process is lengthy and complex, it is advisable that an immigration attorney be consulted as soon as the possibility of U.S. employment arises.

Whatever the type of your visa, to remain in the United States legally it is imperative that you follow all requirements pertaining to that visa.

Criminal Offenses
Foreign students should also seek immediate legal advice if they are arrested for any criminal offense. Federal law makes any “alien” deportable who has been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude committed within five years after entry into the United States and who is sentenced to confinement for a year or more. In addition, an “alien” is deportable if, at any time after entry, he or she is convicted of two crimes involving moral turpitude but not arising out of a single scheme of criminal misconduct. Deportation may occur after two convictions regardless of whether the individual was sentenced to confinement and regardless of whether the two convictions resulted from a single trial.

Which crimes qualify as a crime of “moral turpitude” is based on the particular crime with which the alien is charged. Convictions which may trigger immigration consequences include visa fraud and false statements, perjury, marriage fraud, smuggling, harboring aliens or encouraging their illegal entry, failure to maintain lawful non-immigrant status, aggravated felonies, weapons violations where the weapons are automatic, semiautomatic, or sawed-off shotguns, and prostitution. For any convictions of Section 101 of the Controlled Substance Act (21 U.S.C. 802) and the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43) one is subject to deportation. It is possible in certain circumstances to apply for a discretionary waiver of the deportable or excludable criminal offense.

Crimes not only may trigger deportation but can also stand as a bar to naturalization. A foreign national seeking future citizenship must demonstrate that he or she has had “good moral character” for five years preceding his or her application to petition for naturalization.

  1. ACLU Know Your Rights Pamphlet
  2. U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services
  3. U.S. Immigration Support
  4. Department of Homeland Security
  5. U.S. Department of State

Verified June 2011

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