Author Archives: Jenn Clore

  1. What are my rights at the US border?

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    In March of 2021, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas stated that the US was on pace “to encounter more individuals on the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years.” The detentions and arrests of undocumented immigrants in 2021 along the southern US border reached an all-time high of 1.9 million, with most arrests leading to deportation. 

    This year, in 2022, border crossings into the United States continue to increase due to violence, food insecurity, poverty, and a lack of economic opportunity in several countries in the Western Hemisphere, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Regardless of your immigration status or reason for entering the United States, you are entitled to certain rights when crossing the border. To understand your rights, you must first understand the agencies you will encounter at the border and beyond. 

    Who patrols the US borders?

    The US Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP), a Department of Homeland Security branch, oversees trade and travel in and out of the United States. CBP’s Border Patrol agents inspect immigrants and cargo at ports of entry and patrol thousands of miles of the border. In addition to preventing the entry of terrorists and terrorist weapons, Border Patrol agents detect and prevent drug smugglers and the illegal entry of non-citizens.

    You will most likely encounter a Border Patrol agent at a US port of entry. A port of entry is where one may lawfully enter the nation. International airports are usually ports of entry, as are road and rail crossings on a land border and major seaports. US Customs and Border Protection enforces the import and export regulations and immigration programs of the US government. 

    Border Patrol agents may inspect your documentation, ask questions about your plans in the United States, and determine whether or not you are permitted to enter the country. Under CBP policy, agents are allowed to use force considered “objectively reasonable to affect an arrest,” taking into consideration whether a person poses a security threat or is resisting arrest. Excessive force by an agent is prohibited. 

    At airports, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers conduct security screenings. Most TSA officers are not commissioned law enforcement officers, and their role is to conduct screening of passengers, baggage, and cargo. TSA screeners can search you and your luggage at screening checkpoints, but they cannot arrest you. 

    TSA agents and Border Patrol are not active-duty military forces. The 1878 Posse Comitatus Act limits the US military’s role in enforcing domestic law, which includes immigration. As a result, it has been historically rare for US military forces to be sent to the border. In recent decades, their presence at the border has been limited to providing high-tech surveillance. US military forces can neither detain nor deport unauthorized immigrants nor conduct searches and seizures. 

    The 100-mile border

    US Customs and Border Protection is tasked with patrolling the US border and areas that function like a border. Their territorial reach includes a 100-miles radius from any external boundary of the United States. Under federal law, CBP can board vehicles and vessels “within a reasonable distance from any external boundary of the United States” and search for people without immigration documentation without a warrant. 

    A “reasonable distance” is 100 air miles for any external US boundary. Most of the ten largest cities in the US, such as New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago, fall within this region. In addition, Florida lies entirely within this border. As part of its immigration enforcement efforts, CBP boards buses and trains in the 100-mile border region either at the station or while the bus is on its journey. More than one officer usually boards the bus, and they will ask passengers questions about their immigration status, request passengers to show immigration documents, or both. 

    CBP operates immigration checkpoints along the interior of the United States at both major roads — permanent checkpoints — and secondary roads — “tactical checkpoints”— as part of its enforcement strategy. At these checkpoints, every motorist is stopped and asked about their immigration status. Agents do not need any suspicion to stop and ask questions at a lawful checkpoint, but their questions should be brief and related to verifying immigration status. They can also visually inspect your vehicle. Some motorists will be sent to secondary inspection areas at the checkpoint for further questioning. 

    While the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution prohibits random and arbitrary stops and searches, federal authorities do not need a warrant to justify a “routine search,” such as searching luggage or a vehicle. However, Border Patrol cannot pull over anyone without “reasonable suspicion” of an immigration violation or crime. An agent must have specific facts about you that make it reasonable to believe you are committing or have committed a violation of immigration or federal law. 

    Can my documents be taken away at the border?

    According to US Customs and Border Patrol policies regarding border searches, “When officers determine there is probable cause of unlawful activity, based on a review of information in documents or electronic devices encountered at the border or on other facts and circumstances, they may seize and retain the originals and/or copies of relevant documents or devices, as authorized by law.”

    In the absence of probable cause, “CBP may only retain documents relating to immigration matters, consistent with the privacy and data protection standards of the system in which such information is retained.” Under Federal laws, CBP may examine documents, books, pamphlets, and other printed material. If documentation, including your passport, is confiscated, it will usually be retained until the end of your immigration court case

    Your rights when crossing a US border 

    Generally, CBP officers may stop people at the border to determine if they are admissible to the United States, and they may search luggage and other belongings for contraband. This includes searching laptops and cell phones. However, officers may not select you for a personal search based on your religion, race, national origin, gender, ethnicity, or political beliefs. 

    If you are stopped at the border by a CBP agent or anywhere within the United States by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), you have certain rights and protections regardless of your immigration status:

    • You have the right to remain silent or request the presence of an attorney before answering any questions. However, if you do have permission to be in the US with a non-immigration visa, the law requires you to provide details about your immigration status when asked by authorities. 
    • If you are a lawful permanent resident (LPR), you only have to answer questions establishing your identity and permanent residency. Refusal to answer other questions will likely cause delay, but officials may not deny you entry into the United States for failure to answer additional questions.
    • An immigration officer cannot detain you without “reasonable suspicion.” You may ask the detaining officer their basis for reasonable suspicion. 
    • If you are not at a port of entry or US border, you cannot be arrested or searched without “probable cause” or your consent. The agent must have facts about you that make it probable that you are committing or have committed a violation of immigration or federal law. 
    • If you are told you cannot enter the country and fear you might be persecuted or tortured if you are sent back to the country you traveled to, you have the right to request asylum.
    • While CBP holds that primary and secondary inspections do not give you the right to an attorney, we recommend you request to contact a reputable immigration attorney if you feel your rights are being violated or if you have been detained for an unusually long period. 
    • If you are under arrest, or if it becomes clear you are suspected of committing a crime, you should ask to speak to a lawyer before answering any further questions — and if you wish to exercise your right to remain silent, you should say so out loud.
    • You have the right to wear religious head coverings during airport screenings. However, you may be subject to additional screenings if the body scanner triggers an alarm. In that case, you have the right to request that the pat-down or removal of your head covering be conducted by a person of your gender and that it occurs in a private area.

    Other important facts to keep in mind:

    • Customs Border Patrol agents can search without a warrant at ports of entry. However, ICE officers must have a warrant signed by a judge to enter your home. 
    • If you have entered the US without inspection by CBP or an immigration official, you may be subject to expedited removal from the US. However, expedited removal proceedings only apply if you have entered without inspection within the last 14 days or have been encountered by an immigration officer within 100 miles of the border. 
    • If your laptop or cell phone is confiscated at the border, according to CBP policy, they are not required to return your device before you leave the airport or other port of entry, and they might choose to send it off for a more thorough “forensic” search. Unless “extenuating circumstances” apply, they can keep your device for five days. However, the policy does not define ” extenuating circumstances, and the period can be extended to seven days.
    • If you leave the airport or other border checkpoint without your electronic devices, ask for a receipt, including information about your device and contact information, allowing you to follow up.

    What should I do if I’m arrested or detained at the border?

    If you are arrested or detained, meaning held in custody for a temporary period of time, you have the right to remain silent and to request to speak to a lawyer. 

    The following information may be helpful in this situation:

    • Do not sign anything without first talking to a lawyer.
    • Do not agree to a “voluntary departure” or agree to leave the United States without first talking to a lawyer. A voluntary departure removes your right to a court hearing and the risk of future barred entry to the United States.
    • Do not sign “stipulated orders of removal” without discussing with a lawyer. A stipulated removal order waives your right to a hearing and serves as a final order of deportation signed by a judge.
    • You have the right to call an attorney or your family if you are detained.
    • You have the right to be visited by an attorney if you are detained or in an immigration detention center. 
    • You have the right to an attorney, but the government will not provide you with one for free.
    • You have the right to contact your consulate. 
    • If detained, you have the right to ask to be released by paying a bond or for a bond hearing in front of a judge. A bond is money paid to the government that guarantees you will attend future court hearings. 

    In most cases, the immigration authorities have 48 hours to decide if you are to undergo immigration proceedings in front of a judge, to keep you in custody, or to release you on bond. If an immigration hearing is decided, you must receive a Notice to Appear within 72 hours with information regarding the hearing and your charges. 

    If you leave the US before your hearing, it’s essential to speak with an immigration attorney before departure. You may not be permitted back into the United States for several years if you leave. You may be arrested and barred indefinitely if caught entering the country before you’re allowed. 

  2. The facts and myths about the Biden Administration’s proposed IDs for the undocumented

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    The Biden Administration has proposed an ID program for undocumented individuals arriving in the United States through Mexico’s borders. The program is part of an effort to modernize the documentation process for noncitizens, which hasn’t been updated since President Obama’s 2015 Presidential Memorandum, “Modernizing and Streamlining the US Immigrant Visa System for the 21st Century,” 

    Program participants will be able to expedite the immigration process by avoiding long lines for court hearings and having to register in person at government offices throughout the process. In addition, introducing a national identification system could simplify the current immigration system and improve communication between law enforcement, undocumented immigrants, and government officials. 

    Details of the ID card referred to as the ICE Secure Docket Card (SDC) has yet to be finalized, and the program still needs to be approved by Congress. Meanwhile, let’s explore the program in more detail to dispel a few myths.

    ICE secure docket card program overview

    According to an ICE spokesperson, the ICE secure docket card program is part of a pilot program to modernize various forms of documentation provided to noncitizens through a consistent, verifiable, secure card. The card, similar to a photo ID, will include the individual’s name, nationality, and a QR code for access to a portal with relevant immigration information. In addition, users can use the portal to update information and check in with federal authorities throughout their immigration cases or removal proceedings

    The secure docket card would allow authorities to verify whether an immigrant was released from custody “and/or charged as removable from the United States,” according to ICE. The Department of Homeland Security plans to pilot the SDC program by the end of 2023. However, for this to happen, the House and Senate would need to approve the program’s $10 million proposed budget, and a pilot notification requirement would need to be completed. 

    Four myths and four facts about the secure docket card program

    The proposed secure docket card program can offer many benefits to undocumented individuals, as well as state and federal governments. However, myths about the card could stand in the way of Congress approval. 

    Myth #1: The secure docket card will provide undocumented individuals with legal status.  

    The card does not provide individuals with the privileges of a documented citizen. The card is intended to ease the backlog of tracking individuals who have entered the country illegally and are undergoing removal proceedings. Only some apprehended noncitizens are held in a detention center under government custody. Migrants released from government custody still undergo immigration court proceedings to determine whether they can remain in the United States or be deported. 

    However, the process can take years and involves multiple check-ins with various immigration agencies. Currently, ICE is monitoring more than 300,000 migrants not held in detention centers through GPS ankle monitors, phones, or an app known as SmartLINK. 

    Myth #2: All undocumented individuals will receive the secure docket card. 

    Initially, the SDC will only be provided to migrants not in detention centers who illegally cross the US-Mexico border and are waiting for final decisions on their immigration cases. However, according to an ICE spokesperson, the agency could consider scaling up based on the pilot program’s success. 

    Myth #3: The secure docket card will grant voting access to noncitizens. 

    At the time of this article’s publication, there is no evidence that the cards could be used to obtain benefits or vote in US elections. The ID cards will not be considered federal forms of identification. Secure docket cards will not change the fact that only US citizens can vote in federal, state, and most local elections. Some states require voters to show identification to cast votes. Driver’s licenses are the most common form of identification, and less than 20 states currently provide driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants

    Michelle Mittelstadt, Director of Communications at The Migration Policy Institute, told Reuters, “Considering noncitizens of all types are ineligible to vote in federal and state elections (and only in small numbers of municipal elections), and the proposed ICE secure docket card by its very nature would be given only to unauthorized immigrants in removal proceedings, it’s out of the question that any federal or state elections administrator would accept the ID as valid to establish voting eligibility.”

    Myth #4: The card will grant access to federal benefits. 

    Generally, undocumented immigrants are ineligible to receive federal public benefits, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), regular Medicaid, Social Security, healthcare subsidies, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Obtaining the secure docket card will not grant access to any federal benefits. 

    Regardless of having a secure docket card, undocumented immigrants may be eligible for emergency medical assistance under Medicaid, specific public health programs, and disaster relief assistance

    Fact #1: The secure docket card supplements the Alternative to Detention program. 

    An Alternative to Detention (ATD) is a program that releases migrants from the custody of border agents and places them in a specific supervision program. Under current law, ICE “may or shall” release noncitizens on a case-by-case basis. Participants in this program often include unaccompanied minors, pregnant women, families with young children, and nursing mothers.

    The secure docket card will make it easier for immigrants to check their court dates and reply to immigration officials, a requirement for Alternatives to Detention programs. The SDC also provides a verifiable way for migrants to keep their contact information up-to-date, as failure to do so could result in immediate deportation. 

    Fact #2: The secure docket card will expedite access to public records. 

    The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) allows individuals to submit a request to any federal government agency to obtain public record documentation about themselves or others. Immigration attorneys may often recommend a “FOIA request” if their clients have prior contact with immigration either at the border or through immigration court. Individuals can also submit requests for copies of their criminal records if they have been arrested.

    In immigration cases, FOIA requests are often made to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) because DHS houses many other departments that interact exclusively with immigrants. A representative from ICE stated, “Moving to a secure card will save the agency millions, free up resources, and ensure information is quickly accessible to DHS officials while reducing the agency’s FOIA backlog.”

    Fact #3: The secure docket card could help undocumented individuals secure state benefits.

    State benefits like housing assistance, healthcare, and transportation often require some form of identification for eligibility. Individuals awaiting the outcomes of their immigration cases would benefit from having ID cards featuring their photos, biographical information, and other official security features. The cards have the potential to provide legal identification that will ease some of the burdens the individuals face daily while awaiting their case decision.

    Fact #4: ID programs for migrants are not a new concept. 

    The migrant ID program isn’t new; similar programs have been implemented locally for years. For example, New Haven, Connecticut, implemented a municipal ID program to resolve a theft problem in their city. Without proper ID, the undocumented were unable to open bank accounts. According to an article by PolicyLink, “As a result, they became frequent targets of theft because it was widely believed that they stored a large amount of cash either on at home or on their person.”

    PolicyLink also wrote, “When the state legislative effort to provide driver’s licenses to undocumented residents failed, New Haven’s Mayor John DeStefano launched a municipal ID initiative called the Elm City Resident’s Card in 2007. In just five months, the city issued more than 5,000 ID cards. By 2012, 10,000 residents had ID cards. Moreover, the resident card helped foster a sense of belonging and improved relationships between immigrants and law enforcement.”

    Several cities like Washington DC, Chicago, and San Francisco have similar programs. New York City has the largest local ID program. Called “ID NYC,” the ID is recognized as a valid form of identification by the police. It can also be used to open bank accounts and register for public benefits like health insurance. 

    The City of Chicago launched the City Key program to increase access to government-issued ID cards. Undocumented immigrants can acquire City Keys, establishing proof of identity in the City of Chicago. City Keys can be used to open a bank account at participating financial institutions, donate blood, rent apartments, apply for building permits, save money on medical prescriptions, ride public transportation, and more. 

    How the proposed secure docket program would work

    While there are no concrete details released yet, these are the guidelines some are speculating.

    • The card would feature the individual’s photo, biographic details, and official security features.
    • Each secure docket card would have a QR code that allows the immigrant to access court information and paperwork through an app. 
    • The ID card system would allow authorities to see which immigrants are asylum seekers. This lets those seekers prove that they are already in the immigration system.
    • ICE would give the cards to immigrants, not in detention centers, who illegally crossed the US-Mexico border or others going through the removal process.

    Advocates claim the secure docket card incentivizes immigrants to check in with officials more often to avoid waiting at physical ICE offices. It would also incentivize unauthorized immigrants to provide accurate information about their location. ICE is currently completing the required pilot notifications to Congress. An ICE spokesperson noted, “The details of the program are still being worked out, but the main goal of SDC is to improve the current inconsistent paper forms that often degrade quickly in the real world.” 

     

  3. Making a career change as a new American

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    Due to the competitive job market in the United States, some new Americans may seek a job in a field that’s different from the one they had in their native country. Making a career change in a new country can be challenging but it can also introduce you to new people and new languages that will help you grow personally and professionally. 

    While you may not have traditional job experience in the new role you are considering, there are still opportunities to leverage the soft skills and transferable skills you do have into a rewarding new career. Here are some tips to help make a successful career transition in the United States. 

    Set a goal

    There are many job opportunities available in the United States. It’s easy to apply to all the open positions with the hope that just one employer will take a chance on you. But that will not set you up for success in the United States. Understanding what type of career will make you feel satisfied and fulfilled will put you on the path to career advancement.

    Before you start applying, take the time to reflect on your past experiences, the industry you want to work in, and the skills you want to gain. If you don’t have defined career goals, determine what you want to accomplish in the long and short term. For example, if you have a goal to make a certain amount of money, you may want to focus on industries and positions that will get you closer to that goal. If there is an industry or position you’d like to transition into, research career training opportunities to help bolster your resume. 

    Highlight your soft skills

    Soft skills are non-technical skills that relate to how you work. They include how you interact with colleagues, solve problems, and how you manage your work. These skills are the easiest skills to transfer from role to role and industry to industry. Examples of soft skills are:

    • Problem-solving skills — You can solve issues quickly and efficiently. 
    • Emotional intelligence — The ability to gauge and manage your own emotions and build professional relationships. It influences how well you will interact with your colleagues and how will you manage stress and conflict.
    • Leadership skills — Leadership skills are skills you use when organizing other people to reach a shared goal. Good leaders increase employee engagement, support a positive environment, and help remove obstacles for their team.
    • Strong work ethics — An attitude an employee applies to their work that indicates a high level of passion for any work they do including arriving at work on time, completing tasks on schedule, and staying focused and organized. 
    • Teamwork — Even if you prefer to work alone, it is crucial that you appreciate and understand the value of working together and collaborating to accomplish the company’s objectives. 
    • Communication skills — Good communication involves listening and observing as well as talking. Employees with strong communication skills can mitigate a problem before it becomes a crisis.
    • Adaptability — Adaptability in the workplace means being flexible and able to change in order to become successful. You can manage unusual circumstances where there are no explicit instructions and have the confidence to make difficult decisions. As a newcomer to the United States, you have already proven your ability to adapt to new and uncertain situations. 

    The fact that you have a diverse background can add value to a US-based organization. Your willingness to live and work in a new country shows that you can adapt, be resilient, be open-minded, and view things from a different perspective. These are valuable skills for any new employee. 

    Show the numbers

    American employers appreciate seeing the numbers and data to back up your experience. Rather than simply listing out the duties you were responsible for in your past position, it is recommended to also highlight the results you achieved from your work. When switching industries, prospective employers may be more interested in the quantitative results than the process you followed. 

    Providing quantitative data on your resume is an effective way to emphasize your accomplishments in previous roles. In a competitive job market, it is important to make sure that you are giving yourself every available advantage. To create a list of accomplishments that are quantifiable and measurable, ask yourself the following questions:

    • How much did I make or save the company money? 
    • How much time did it take to reach my goals? 
    • To what degree did I exceed my goals?

    Think in terms of money and time. Dollar amounts, timespans, volume, and percentages are all great ways to quantify your accomplishments on a resume. If you are unsure of the exact number or dollar amount, consider using a range, for example, $3,000 – $5,000 or 3 – 5 hours. If your previous experience doesn’t involve dollar amounts, one of the easiest ways to add numbers to your resume is to quantify how frequently you performed a particular task. This is particularly helpful in illustrating your work in high-volume situations. Some examples of quantifying your experience are:

    • Within two months, set up and trained staff of 7 how to use the Jira platform to plan, track, and manage software development programs. 
    • Received two promotions from mid-level manager to director level in less than 18 months. 
    • Implemented a filing system for human resources, organizing more than 300 past and current employee documents. 
    • Increased shipping times by 90% by implementing an automated inventory and ticketing system. 
    • Decreased my packing time from 7 minutes to 3 minutes during my 4-year tenure and won “Employee of the Month” on two occasions.
    • Provided excellent table service to 50 patrons a night by maintaining knowledge of 120+ menu items, including beverages and wines. 
    • Reduced time spent on inventory by 20% by reorganizing the physical storage of supplies.
    • Reduced marketing spending by $35K by learning social media techniques instrumental in promoting company services.

    Bridge the gaps

    As with any job, it’s important to tailor your resume to match the job you are applying for. While you might not have experience in the new industry, you may need to show the hiring manager how your skills align with the requirements of the job. It could mean omitting on your resume the skills that aren’t applicable in your new industry, such as highly technical skills or specific pieces of software. Refer to the job posting, and if applicable, incorporate some of the words and phrases of the job description into your resume. 

    Also, keep in mind that the words you use in your resume should match how your job skills are described in America. For example, the role of an HR manager in Argentina could be different than in the United States. It’s also important to abide by any resume standards and expectations. For example, some countries may prefer a more detailed, two-page resume over a shorter, more concise document in the United States. Your resume needs to reflect not only the job you’re applying for but also the company’s cultural environment.

    Understand how the role translates in America

    You may encounter similar job titles in the United States, however, you might not realize that the roles can be quite different depending on the country. For example, the role of a Plant Manager in Japan doesn’t match what a Plant Manager does in the United States and the salary could be quite different than what you expect. 

    It’s a good idea to find out if any differences exist for you and whether you need to gain some additional skills or qualifications. The website O*NET sponsored by the US Department of Labor maintains a large database of job descriptions with similar job titles and can help provide a starting point in your research. 

    Focus on your matched qualifications

    Focus on your qualifications that match the job description by putting them first on your resume. You’ll want to draw attention to your experience which makes you an obvious fit for the job even with your less traditional experience. Then take inventory of your skills and abilities. These could be technical skills you are proficient in or soft skills that have helped you succeed. 

    If you are unsure that you have any matched qualifications but still feel you are a good fit for the job, think about the times you have won an award or received recognition at work. What skills, talents, or abilities helped you to excel? Drawing this connection for employers can help you write a relevant resume for the job you want. 

    Leverage your language

    Some employers may be interested in the specialist knowledge you didn’t know you had. Whether or not the position you are applying for requires your language skills, you can still convey the creative ways that your skills can benefit the company’s business goals. Add a language section on your resume that indicates how fluent you are in the languages that you can speak, read, and write in. If the job you are applying for is looking for a bilingual candidate, make sure the language section is located toward the top of your resume.

    Your native language can be extremely useful for employers who want to build relationships and expand into new markets. Also, being bilingual can allow you to form a vital part of a company’s growth strategy, whether it is trying to enter new markets on a national level or expand to other countries. And being bilingual is actually proven to make you smarter, as it makes you better at solving complex problems.

    Be flexible

    When making an international career move, it’s important not to get too fixated on a specific job title or an exact equivalent role in your new country. Employers may be hesitant to hire a candidate who has never worked for an American company. They may want to reduce your risk of failure by advising you to start at a lower position, giving you the best chance at success. By approaching this opportunity with an open mind, it could pay off in the long run. 

    To prove yourself in a new market, you may need to make a lateral move or a step backward, especially if your past experience involves managerial experience. Managing American teams is a different cultural experience and you may need time to adjust to the American work environment before you can take on a role managing a team.

    Final Thoughts

    Remember you should always check whether or not your visa or work permit limits your options for changing your career or even employer. Contact a reputable immigration lawyer or check with your employer or embassy on the legal work requirements in the United States. 

  4. I received a notice to appear for a removal proceeding. Now what?

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    Deportation and removal proceedings occur when the US government orders a person to leave the country. According to the US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, approximately 186,000 individuals were deported in 2020, a 30 percent decrease from 2019. About 92% of removals were individuals convicted of a crime or pending criminal charges. 

    The most common reasons for deportation include the following: 

    • Violation of green card status terms
    • Marriage fraud
    • Is in the US without proper legal immigration status
    • Overstayed past visa expiration
    • Has been involved in criminal activity
    • They were inadmissible during adjustment of status or while entering the US

    Removal proceedings begin when you receive a Notice to Appear (NTA) from the US government. You have a right to a court hearing and the right to defend yourself against deportation at that hearing. If you or someone you know may be at risk for deportation, it’s important to understand the process and the options available for the best chance at a favorable outcome. 

    What does a “Notice to Appear” mean?

    A Notice to Appear contains a charge of removability and a list of allegations the government must prove. Typically, the Notice to Appear includes claims that you do not have valid immigration status or have done something to end your otherwise valid immigration status. 

    You must appear before an immigration judge who will hear the case against you. At this time, the US government must prove that the allegations against you are true, and the judge will decide whether to remove you from the United States or allow you to remain. However, you may be able to file a “motion to terminate.” A motion to terminate asks the court to dismiss the case if you can show that the government’s charges are substantively or procedurally defective. A motion to terminate may be filed as soon as the government files the Notice to Appear. 

    For some noncitizens, especially those arriving at the border without authority to enter the United States, deportation proceedings may begin while they are in a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center and without the benefit of legal counsel. They may be quickly deported or expelled from the United States by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials with a hearing or a judge ruling. 

    What should I expect during the removal hearing?

    The NTA may include a hearing date for when you must appear before an immigration judge. If you do not show up on that date, you will automatically be ordered for removal. This initial hearing is known as a master calendar hearing. During the hearing, the judge will allow you to admit or deny the charges against you. If you plead not guilty, the government must prove its charges against you. 

    Master Calendar hearings are generally quick. However, the judge may schedule an Individual or Merit hearing to allow the government more time to provide evidence that you are in the country illegally or to hear your evidence proving the opposite. The individual hearing is for the judge to consider all the evidence and arguments and to hear testimony from the respondent or other witnesses. Generally, at the end of the hearing, the judge will issue a decision and the reasons for either granting relief from removal or ordering removal. 

    If an immigration judge finds you removable but grants relief from removal, you can remain in the United States. On the other hand, if the judge finds you not removable or if the government fails to meet its burden of proof, your case will be terminated. A termination can be “with prejudice,” which prohibits the government from bringing the same removal case again, or “without prejudice,” which allows the government to file a new “Notice to Appear” and make a second attempt at removal.

    Am I eligible for “relief from removal?”

    Both you and the government have the opportunity to appeal the judge’s decision. If the judge ordered a removal, an appeal provides an automatic stay on the removal order, meaning that you cannot be removed while your appeal is pending. You must file an appeal within 30 days of the judge’s decision. You may be eligible to apply for “relief from removal.” Some forms of relief from removal include: 

    • Cancellation of Removal: An immigration judge can “cancel” the removal order and permit you to remain in the United States as a lawful permanent resident. To be eligible, you must either be a lawful permanent resident for at least seven years before undergoing removal proceedings or are undocumented and have been in the US for at least ten years. In this case, you must prove that your removal will cause “extreme and exceptionally unusual hardship” for a family member who is a US citizen or lawful permanent resident. 
    • Asylum: You have been granted asylum and cannot be returned to your former country due to a legitimate fear of persecution. 
    • Withholding of Removal: You are not qualified for asylum but cannot be returned to your former country because your life or freedom is threatened due to your “race, religion, nationality, participation in a social group or political opinion.”
    • Adjustment of Status: Obtaining lawful permanent resident status through an immigration judge since you are currently awaiting removal.

    Most forms of relief from removal also come with lawful status, such as a lawful permanent residence or asylee status. However, some forms of relief, such as withholding of removal, only provide limited protections from removal and do not grant any permanent lawful status.

    If an immigration judge finds you removable, denies relief from removal, and issues a removal order or grants voluntary departure at the end of the proceeding, you still have the right to appeal. A removal order is only considered final if the 30-day period to file an appeal has run out, or you waive the right to appeal. Some noncitizens are deported while they are still in the process of appealing.

    US immigration law also allows for administrative or judicial review of the final removal orders within 90 days of the ruling. During this time, a “motion to reopen” is permitted and can be filed with an immigration judge or the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), allowing you to present the court with new facts. The new facts must be supported by affidavits or other documentary evidence, and the information presented must not have been available at the time of the previous hearing.

    Some common grounds for reopening include the following:

    • A change in the conditions of your former country 
    • You are a survivor of domestic abuse
    • Your prior counsel was ineffective 
    • Your convictions were newly vacated
    • Recent circumstances that have changed your eligibility for relief
    • Recently issued case law has changed your removability or eligibility for relief

    A motion to reconsider asks the court to reconsider its decision. You may file a motion to reconsider if you can demonstrate that the court incorrectly applied law or policy or that the decision was incorrect based on the evidence in the record of proceedings at the time of the decision. A motion to reconsider must be filed within 30 days of the final ruling. 

    Are there other forms of removal proceedings?

    How long you’ve been in the country or if you’ve committed a criminal offense could affect your access to a hearing or options to apply for relief from removal. 

    Expedited removal

    Recent arrivals are usually subjected to a rapid “summary removal.” Immigrants apprehended within 14 days of entry into the US can be swiftly deported without a hearing under the expedited removal system unless they express fear of persecution in their former country. Similarly, individuals who have previously been deported can be subject to rapid “reinstatement of removal” if they cross the border again. An immigration judge does not have a role in the expedited removal process. Instead, an immigration officer decides whether the individual should be deported. It’s a quick process that may last only a few days.

    Criminal removal

    Some removal proceedings are initiated based on nonviolent or minor criminal convictions and labeled aggravated felonies under immigration law. The noncitizen is still entitled to a hearing with an immigration judge but may be barred from many forms of relief from removal. Most noncitizens begin removal proceedings after completing any criminal sentence they have served. However, a small number begin removal proceedings while still serving their criminal sentence through the Institutional Hearing Program (IHP). And, in some rare cases, federal judges issue an order of removal as part of a criminal sentence.

    Do I need a lawyer for my removal hearing?

    An experienced attorney can make the difference between remaining in the United States and being deported. Unfortunately, the immigration court will not appoint you a lawyer, leaving you to choose the best legal representation for your case

    A reputable immigration lawyer on your side can help translate the complex immigration system and represent you against the government attorneys representing USCIS, one of the best-resourced federal agencies. According to an American Immigration Council (AIC) study, individuals with legal representation are five times more likely to pursue relief from removal and five times more likely to win their cases. 

  5. Have a green card? What’s next for your immigration journey

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    As a green card holder in the United States, you are now a lawful permanent resident (LPR). LPRs are granted many benefits not available to other visa holders, such as permission to live permanently in the United States, accept employment without special restrictions, own property, and receive financial assistance at public universities and colleges. However, getting a green card is only one step in achieving the full benefits of an American citizen. The next step and final step in your immigration journey is to become a naturalized citizen. 

    The difference between a lawful permanent resident and a naturalized citizen

    An immigrant who wants to settle in the US permanently must first obtain lawful permanent residence. That requires fitting one of the categories for green card qualification, then applying for citizenship. Benefits to both lawful permanent resident status and US citizenship include the ability to:

    • Own or rent property in the US
    • Apply for a driver’s license
    • Go to public schools and colleges
    • Get a US bank account
    • Obtain a social security number
    • File federal and state income tax returns

    However, there are some key differences between the two statuses, as outlined in the table below:

    Lawful Permanent Resident (Green Card Holder) US Citizen either by birth or naturalization
    Eligible for Deportation If the individual commits an act that is grounds for deportability defined by US law, such as committing a crime, failure to notify the US government of a change in address, or becomes a public charge US citizens are not subjected to grounds for deportation. However, citizenship can be revoked if fraud was committed during the citizenship application process. 
    Eligible for a US passport No.  Yes. New citizens can apply for a passport with their N-550, Certificate of Naturalization.
    Eligible to vote in US elections No. Doing so can make them eligible for deportation.  Yes. 
    Sponsor family member visas Yes, for spouses and unmarried children.  Yes, for parents, spouses, children (married or not), and siblings. 
    Qualify for government benefits Yes, but on a more limited basis than US citizens. Yes, if they meet the basic eligibility. 
    Travel restrictions Yes, you may enter and leave the United States for no more than one year. If you intend to leave the country for longer than one year, you must apply for a re-entry permit with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) prior to leaving the United States. There is no travel restrictions for US citizens. 
    Renewal policies Most green cards are valid for ten years. However, the card is valid for two years if you have been granted conditional permanent resident status. There are no renewal requirements for US citizenship. 

    How to become a US citizen

    Those born outside of the United States can become US citizens through naturalization. Naturalization is the process by which US citizenship is granted to a lawful permanent resident after meeting the requirements established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). LPRs must have had their green card for five years or more, live in the United States as a permanent resident, and have displayed all the characteristics of an upstanding citizen to become eligible for US citizenship. The only exceptions to the five-year rule are refugees, asylum seekers, and individuals married to US citizens.

    Before applying for naturalization, please keep in mind that if you have a parent that was a US citizen, either by birth or naturalization, before you turned 18 years old, you may have a claim to citizenship. The form to file a claim for US citizenship is Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship.

    Step 1: Determine Eligibility

    Basic eligibility requirements for green card holders without a US citizen parent include:

    • You have maintained continuous residence in the US for at least five years since you got your green card.
    • You have lived in the US for at least 30 months out of those five years.
    • You are at least 18 years old.
    • You have continuously lived in the US from when you file Form N-400 to when you become a US citizen.
    • You have lived in your state or United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) district for at least three months.
    • You can read, write and speak basic English.
    • You can pass a test of basic US history and government questions.
    • You have a good moral character that reflects the values of the US Constitution. The USCIS looks at your naturalization application, your final interview, and whether you have a criminal record to decide whether you have good moral character. People who have committed certain criminal acts can’t show good moral character.

    Step 2: Applying for Naturalization

    Once you have confirmed that you are eligible, you will need to fill out Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. We recommend consulting a reputable immigration attorney for this process as it is a long and complicated process requiring specific supporting documents to prove you meet the eligibility process. You can avoid lengthy delays in processing by consulting an immigration attorney about what documents to submit. 

    Step 3: Citizenship Test and Interview

    Once your application has been approved, you will be scheduled for a citizenship test and interview. The purpose of the interview is to verify the information submitted on your N-400 application. You may need to bring the original documentation you submitted with your application. The questions asked during the interview will be similar to the questions answered on your application. During this interview, you are also tested on your ability to speak and understand basic English, as a requirement of the naturalization process. 

    During your citizenship test, you will be tested on your English reading and writing skills and understanding of US civics. To test your ability to write in English, the officer will dictate three sentences in English. You’ll have three chances to write one of the sentences in English legibly. To sufficiently demonstrate the ability to read in English, you must read one sentence out of three sentences. During the civics test portion of the interview, you will need to answer six out of ten questions correctly. 

    Step 4: The Naturalization Ceremony

    Once you have passed the interview and tests, you will be scheduled for your naturalization ceremony. At the ceremony, you will take an Oath of Allegiance to the United States. You will also exchange your green card for a Certificate of Naturalization. Then, you will be able to fully enjoy all the rights and privileges of a United States citizen.

    Advantages to US citizenship

    Once you become a legal permanent resident and obtain your green card, there are many benefits to pursuing the next step in your immigration journey and becoming a US citizen. Some benefits include:

    • The government’s inability to take away your US citizenship unless you choose to expatriate.
    • The full advantage of rights reserved for citizens in the US, such as the right to vote and hold a US passport.
    • Cost savings through filing for citizenship. Citizenship is a one-time fee, but you would have to renew your green card every ten years or two years for conditional permanent residency.

    Advantages to keeping your green card status

    However, for some, there are advantages of maintaining green card status over becoming a US citizen, such as:

    • You are ineligible to participate in jury duty: Jury duty is an obligation of US citizens who receive a summons from a court to appear on a particular day and time to potentially serve on a jury. Jury duty is a civic responsibility.
    • Remaining a citizen of your previous country: The United States does not require you to give up any other citizenship when you become a US citizen. However, some countries may take away your citizenship if you become a US citizen. Countries that do not allow dual citizenship with the US include:
      • Andorra
      • Bahrain
      • Bosnia and Herzegovina
      • Cuba
      • Estonia
      • Guyana
      • Japan
      • Monaco
      • Montenegro
      • Myanmar
      • Pakistan
      • Panama
      • Papua New Guinea
      • Qatar
      • San Marino
      • Suriname
      • Tanzania
    • You are not subjected to US taxes even if you live in another country: As a US citizen, you are liable for US taxes on your worldwide income even if you leave the US. Unlike most other countries, US citizens pay tax on their worldwide income, regardless of where they live.
    • You are not required to report any international bank accounts: US citizens are required to annually report any foreign bank account with over $10,000 US in it at any time during the year. These reports are filed separately from your taxes, and the penalties for failure to file are steep.
    • You still receive Consular protection: The Embassy of your home country can still intervene with the US authorities on your behalf. However, since they don’t have the authority to release you from a US jail, this may be a limited benefit.

    The advantage of keeping your green card status over becoming a US citizen is a personal choice. Although green card holders are called “permanent” residents, this status isn’t permanent for everyone with a green card. However, as previously discussed, your status is permanent if you renew your green card and do not commit any acts of deportation. 

    On the other hand, being a US citizen is the highest status someone can attain under US immigration law, which means a truly permanent right to live in the United States. If you’re ready to take the next step in your immigration journey or have any questions, contact us today. We’re happy to help! 

     

  6. The public charge rule – can I accept US government help as an immigrant?

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    A public charge occurs when a noncitizen receives public benefits that may prevent them from becoming a lawful permanent resident. The definition of which public benefits have changed over the years, with the newest iteration taking effect by the end of 2022. This update is just one of the many ways the Biden administration is working towards undoing some of the more restrictive immigration policies enacted during the previous Trump administration. 

    The concept of the public charge has been part of US immigration policy since 1882. It wasn’t until May 1999 that the public charge rule became formally defined as part of the Interim Field Guidance. In general, individuals applying for a green card are subject to the public charge rule, but it does not apply to individuals adjusting status as refugees, asylees, Special Immigrant Juveniles, U and T visa beneficiaries, or self-petitioning through the Violence Against Women Act. It also does not apply to individuals applying for DACA, Temporary Protected Status (TPS), or citizenship. 

    Over the past several years, there have been significant policy shifts in defining a public charge that has created anxiety and confusion for immigrants, leading them to unnecessarily avoid essential services, such as healthcare and public benefits programs.

    A brief history of the public charge rule

    The earliest mention of public charge was part of the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. Within the legislation, some formerly enslaved people and free people of African descent were required to “give surety not to become a public charge and for good behavior” to avoid deportation. This early ruling hints at the social and cultural factors that would later become a large part of the notion of a public charge. 

    “Public charge” first became part of federal US immigration policy when laws passed in 1882 and 1924 specifically excluded Chinese immigrants. The Immigration Act of 1882, passed several months after the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, was the first act to regulate immigration at a federal level. The Act permitted the government to prevent any person “unable to take care of himself or herself without becoming a public charge” from entering the country. Nine years later, a revised version of the Act permitted the exclusion of any “paupers or persons likely to become a public charge” and allowed the deportation of any who did become a public charge within a year. During this time, immigration officials considered, at a minimum, an individual’s age, health, family status, assets, resources, financial status, and education and skills when making a public charge inadmissibility determination. However, the federal legislation did not define who should be a public charge, leaving it up to the immigration officials’ determination. 

    It wasn’t until 1999 that the term “public charge” had an official definition. The Department of Justice issued a Field Guidance on Deportability and Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds, which defined a public charge as “an alien who has become or is likely to become primarily dependent on the federal government for subsistence as demonstrated by either (i) the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or (ii) institutionalization for long-term care at government expense.“ The guidance further clarified that immigration officers could not place any weight on the use of Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), or other non-cash programs when determining admissibly or the adjustment of status. 

    Under the 1999 Interim Field Guidance, the possibility of a noncitizen becoming a public charge was based on: 

    • The noncitizen’s age, health, family status, assets, resources, financial status, education, and skills
    • The filing on Form I-864, Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the Immigration and Nationality Act
    • The noncitizen’s prior or current receipt of Supplemental Security Income (SSI); cash assistance for income maintenance under Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); State, Tribal, territorial, or local cash benefit programs for income maintenance (often called “General Assistance”); or long-term institutionalization at government expense

    The public charge rule under the Trump Administration

    Since 1999, immigration officers had interpreted a “public charge” as referencing applicants who are likely to be primarily dependent on the federal government. During the Trump administration, a new policy was issued revising and widening the interpretation to include noncitizens who have used various other government assistance programs, including housing and health care subsidies. The final regulation of the policy was published in August 2019 and went into effect in February 2020. 

    Under the 2019 final ruling, immigrants were no longer eligible to receive government benefits such as cash benefits for income maintenance, most forms of Medicaid, participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or certain types of housing and rental assistance. In addition, the ruling also targeted noncitizens who earned less than 250% of the federal poverty line, which in 2020 was the federal poverty line was $65,500 for a family of four. 

    Before this change, noncitizens could be identified as a public charge only if they were primarily dependent on the government because they received cash assistance for income maintenance programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or long-term institutional care such as in a nursing home or mental health institution at government expense. The new policy may have contributed to the dramatically reduced number of people eligible for green cards and other visas. In 2020, about 710 immigrants received legal permanent resident status, down from over a million the year before. 

    Effects of 2019 Public Charge Rule and COVID

    Fear and confusion about the updated 2019 public charge rule led noncitizens to forgo enrolling or disenrolling themselves and their children from many social services. A 2021 Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) survey of Hispanic adults found that 1 in 4 potentially undocumented Hispanic adults and over 1 in 10 lawful permanent resident Hispanic adults reported that they or a family member did not participate in a government assistance program in the past three years due to immigration-related fears. Similarly, a KFF survey of Asian community health center patients found that over 50% reported not having enough information about how recent immigration policy changes, including the public charge rule, impact them and their families, and 1 in 4 reported that they or a family member in their household avoided participating in publicly-funded health, nutrition, or housing programs in the past 12 months due to immigration-related fears.

    The effect of the 2019 public charge rule also had consequences on immigrant families during the COVID-19 pandemic. Research has shown that fear of being considered a public charge contributed to reduced access to vaccines and other medical care, which may have resulted in an increased risk of an outbreak of infectious disease among the general public. 

    Many noncitizens responded to the tightening rules by reducing use of benefits or services for themselves and their US-born children, regardless of whether those benefits and services were included in the new criteria for public charge. According to service providers, many immigrants back out midway through benefits enrollment if asked to provide additional documentation because of concerns about exposing themselves or family members to public charge determinations. 

    2022 Public Charge Update

    In March 2021, when the Biden administration stopped implementing the previous administration’s public charge regulations, the 1999 Interim Field Guidance definition of public charge was returned. Under the final rule and the 1999 field guidance, the government will not consider the use of noncash benefits programs, including Medicaid coverage, except for long-term institutionalization when making public charge determinations. 

    According the 2022 Final Rule, the primary purpose of the 2022 public charge rule is to address the “chilling effects of the 2019 rule on immigrant families’ participation in public programs, including Medicaid and CHIP.” As mentioned in the preamble, “DHS believes that, in contrast to the 2019 Final Rule, this proposed rule would “mitigate the possibility of widespread ‘‘chilling effects’’ with respect to individuals disenrolling or declining to enroll themselves or family members in public benefits programs for which they are eligible, especially by individuals who are not subject to the public charge ground of inadmissibility.”

    Essentially, the 2022 regulations codify the guidance that had previously been in place since 1999 after the Trump rule was repealed in 2021. This new regulation will go into effect on December 23, 2022. Until then, the 1999 guidance will continue to be in effect.

    Under the final rule, the federal government will only consider participation in the following as a pubic charge:

    • Cash assistance programs, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and state, local, and Tribal cash assistance to pay for basic needs such as rent, food, and utilities. 
    • Long-term government assistance for institutionalization, including that provided in a nursing home or mental health institution. Long-term institutionalization at government expense would be the only category of Medicaid-funded services to be considered in public charge determinations. 

    All other benefits – including SNAP/food stamps, school lunch programs, WIC, rental assistance, healthcare, pandemic relief, unemployment benefits, and housing – are not considered in the public charge test and do not affect immigration applications. In addition, benefits received by an immigrant’s other family members, including their children, will not be considered. This represents a change from the 1999 Field Guidance, which allowed for consideration of a noncitizen’s family’s reliance on public cash benefits as the sole means of support for the family.

    The future of public charge

    Throughout the history of immigration policy in the United States, the notion of a public charge has seen many iterations. At its start, it was meant to refer to those who could not support themselves without complete intervention by their community. It had evolved to target certain races and more recently has been used to define the usage of specific public benefits. 

    When it comes to actual deportations under the public charge rule, its usage is rare. Out of more than 1.2 million deportations between 2015 and 2019, only 123 people were deported for violating the public charge rule. Congress states that a permanent resident can only be deported on public charge grounds within the first five years of obtaining their green card — and only if they became a public charge based on circumstances that existed before they obtained their green card. 

    Misinformation and lack of clarity have critics concerned that noncitizens will continue to fear accessing public services, like going to the doctor, going to the hospital, or getting tested for communicable diseases. This fear doesn’t just affect the public health of immigrants, it affects the public health of the entire country. 

    Biden’s policy change is intended to reduce fears of accessing programs, but it will likely require sustained community-level efforts to rebuild trust and reduce fears among families. Prior experience suggests that outreach and education from trusted members of the community will be important for alleviating fears. Direct one-on-one assistance will also be key for facilitating the enrollment of noncitizens into programs for which they and their children are eligible, including Medicaid and CHIP.

    The future continues to remain unclear for immigrant families, especially when in earlier research, some families have expressed concerns that rules may change in the future, despite best efforts to educate. In particular, Medicaid coverage for long-term institutional care continues to be included in public charge determinations, preventing simple and clear messages about Medicaid coverage.

    As recent history has demonstrated, executive actions can change relatively quickly, so fears about the future are well-founded. The creation of clearer definitions of public charges, including specifically identifying which benefits and services contribute to one’s likelihood of becoming a public charge, can help deter oscillating policy changes in the future, while providing noncitizens with peace of mind in getting the support they need to live healthy, sustainable lives in the United States.

  7. 6 ways to improve your English proficiency

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    Mastering the English language will open many doors for newcomers to the United States. It will provide a better sense of your new home, including the culture, the people, and your future as a new American. Proficiency in English also makes everyday activities like using public transportation, reading signs, shopping, and eating at restaurants much easier to navigate. 

    Your grasp of the English language also makes you more employable. To compete in the global market, employers often seek out multilingual job candidates to fill open positions across various fields. Effective communication can also facilitate easier integration into your community, the ability to make new friends, and can enhance your new life in America. Improving your English proficiency is often accomplished by developing your listening, reading, writing, and speaking skills. Here are 6 tips to help further your English proficiency. 

    1. Read

    Sample a wide range of English-language newspapers. In keeping updated with current affairs, you will also expand your vocabulary and gain familiarity with how words are spelled and used. English books of all genres can also help to familiarize you with phrases and expressions. Set a goal to learn the meaning of a new phrase every week and try to use them in everyday conversations to get used to the different expressions and idioms. 

    Reading English books out loud can also help improve your vocabulary and your understanding of English grammar. Books, magazines, and newspapers provide an abundant source of practice materials for reading out loud and becoming more comfortable speaking the language.

    2. Watch

    Watching American movies and TV series can help expand your English proficiency while also giving you a good sense of American culture. Having subtitles on will help you hear the English words and understand their spelling, as well as familiarize yourself with colloquial and conversational forms of American English. Subtitles are also helpful if the characters speak too quickly while also giving you a better sense of pronunciation. Keep in mind what English movies and TV shows you are watching as American accents and styles of speech are very different than in the UK. 

    Rather than watching other people speak English, try recording yourself as you practice. This can help you catch errors, improve pronunciation, and boost confidence. All you need is the camera on your phone or computer to start recording. Give yourself a goal of how often you will record and set guidelines on what you will talk about. For example, try recording yourself teaching something new or discussing something you’ve learned that week. Or review your favorite movie or TV show. Then, go back every couple of weeks to see how you’ve progressed. 

    3. Listen

    Passive listening can help train your ears to the sounds and pronunciation of the English language. For example, listen to English music in the background while doing your daily tasks. Even if you’re not actively listening, you will still be training your ears to certain English sounds. 

    Hear an English song that you like? Find out the meaning of the song lyrics and look up any words or phrases you don’t know. Then, play the song again and try singing along as you read the lyrics. Play the song over again until you feel comfortable to start singing along without reading the lyrics. Each new song you learn will help improve your understanding of English words and phrases. Research shows that adults who sang in a new language rather than just speaking it performed better on language tests. 

    If you’re someone who likes to review your progress over time, consider using a voice recording app when singing, reading out loud, or saying whatever comes to mind in English. Give yourself a goal of recording yourself every day for five minutes, then listen back for any mistakes. There are many free voice recording apps available online to help you record your progress. 

    In addition to listening to songs and recording your voice, podcasts can offer a wealth of resources and tools to help you practice your English. 

    Some popular podcasts for learning English include:

    • ESL Pod – Daily English lessons with dialogues and stories using conversational American English. You get detailed explanations of how to use each fundamental expression and idiom.
    • Real English Conversations – Improve your listening skills and expose yourself to English used in everyday speaking. Hear expressions, phrasal verbs, and new vocabulary in naturally spoken audio lessons.
    • Speak English Now – Learn English with the Question and Answer (TPRS) and Point of View techniques while learning about English culture and language. 
    • All Ears English Podcast – Learn how to use everyday English vocabulary and natural idioms, expressions, phrasal verbs, and how to make small talk in American English. You’ll also hear tips on American culture, customs, etiquette, and how to speak with Americans. 
    • Espresso English – You’ll learn English grammar, vocabulary, phrases, idioms, and more. Espresso English lessons are clear and practical, making it easy to learn the language quickly and effectively.

    4. Write

    One of the best ways to help you remember English words and phrases is to write them down in English. Try keeping a journal and writing down a few words about your day in English. This is also a good way to help record your progress and identify any mistakes. You don’t need to write them down with a pen and paper; an online journal or note app can help do the trick. 

    As an alternative to writing about your day, list words and phrases you hear throughout your day. Write down every time you hear or see a word you’re unfamiliar with. Then research the word’s definition, pronunciation, and synonyms and phrases for when the word is used. Give yourself a goal of writing three to five new words daily. Even if you only have time to learn one new word a day, by the end of the year, that’s still 365 new English words. 

    5. Speak

    In addition to reading, listening, and writing English words, speaking the language will make you feel more comfortable conversing in English and improve your pronunciation and grammar. If you’re not ready to practice with another person, consider speaking in front of a mirror. 

    In front of a mirror, practice quoting a scene from an American movie or TV show or a joke from your favorite stand-up comedian. Memorize a few sentences at a time and look up any phrases or expressions you don’t know. Then, practice regularly using the phrases in sentences until you feel comfortable. Need some suggestions? Here is a list of the 10 best monologues from American television

    If you’re not ready to memorize a speech, start small with a quote or a few lines. Social media is a great source for gathering popular quotes and sayings. Another benefit of social media is the exposure to popular expressions, phrases, and idioms you might not find in a book or a song. Another option to help practice your English proficiency is answering thought-provoking questions. The website, In English with Love, offers free comprehension and discussion worksheets based on short videos designed to help you become a more confident English speaker. 

    If you’re nervous about pronouncing new words correctly, online dictionaries like Macmillan and Merriam-Webster can help. Use the speaker symbol to hear the word spoken out loud. You can even use Google by using search phrases such as “How to say…” for an audio recording of the English pronunciation. English pronunciation tutorials on YouTube can also help to teach you the many aspects of American English pronunciation. 

    6. Practice

    Practicing your English with mobile apps can be a convenient way to stay on top of your progress. Always available on your phone, apps provide easy access to learning new words, completing quick language exercises, and making learning a new language fun and engaging. 

    Some popular English proficiency apps include:

    • Elsa – An AI-enabled speech tutor to help you study English. Practice speaking English and learn the American accent quickly. 
    • FluentU – FluentU brings language learning to life through language immersion with real-world videos.
    • HelloTalk – Learn a new language through conversations with native speakers. 
    • Tandem – A language exchange app on iOS and Android that connects language learners with native speakers. 
    • Preply – Preply is a language app where you learn fundamental skills by taking private lessons with online tutors.
    • Duolingo – Learn a new language with bite-sized lessons based on science. 
    • Memrise – Short Lessons. Real-life phrases. Get everything you need to go from learning to speaking, fast. 
    • Babbel – The comprehensive learning system combines effective education methods with state-of-the-art technology.

    Learning a new language takes commitment and regular practice. Determine your best learning method, whether by memorizing, reading, speaking, or other ways, and aim to practice every day. Set realistic, regular targets. A goal for one week may be to improve your pronunciation. Focus on that for a certain amount of time every day. Be clear about your goals and how you plan to achieve them. 

    Many people succeed with an accountability partner who can help them stay committed. If you have someone who knows what you are trying to achieve and understands what you need to do to get there, you are more likely to be incentivized to stay on track. An accountability partner can be anyone who will support you and work with you to achieve your goals. It is helpful to have a plan for how you are going to improve your English and keep track of your progress. Creating structure to your plan will help you to feel more confident and relaxed throughout your English language journey. 

     

  8. The US Census “Citizenship” question and what it means for immigrants – August 2022 Update

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    The US Constitution mandates that a census be taken every ten years to count all people—both citizens and noncitizens—living in the United States. This count helps to ensure fair political representation and plays a vital role in many areas of public life. The US Census is a questionnaire that can be filled out online, over the phone, or by a mailed-in form and includes demographic questions such as how many people are living in the home, age, and race. 

    The accuracy of the survey responses affects many aspects of life in America, regardless of immigration status. Unfortunately, many immigrants fear responding truthfully or at all for many reasons, including fear of their undocumented status becoming known, resulting in deportation. However, it is illegal for the survey responses to be shared with anyone outside the Census Bureau, including employ­ees of other federal agen­cies, such as the Department of Homeland Security or the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. 

    The 2020 Census recently made news headlines due to the discovery that the former presidential administration under Donald Trump attempted to add a citizenship question for political gain. Evidence suggests that the real motivation behind the attempt to add the question, “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” was to discourage noncitizens from responding, skewing the population counts used to draw Congressional districts and eventually giving Republicans a bigger electoral advantage.

    Recent census controversy surrounding citizenship

    In July 2022, evidence from emails and handwritten notes were released suggesting that the Trump administration attempted to include a citizenship question in a critical census count to benefit Republicans. In 2018, President Trump announced plans to add a question about citizenship status to the 2020 census with claims that the question would help enforce the 1965 Voting Rights Act by achieving a more accurate count of eligible voters. The census would have asked: “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” Options were to include: “Yes, born in the United States”; “Yes, born in Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, or Northern Marianas”; “Yes, born abroad of U.S. citizen parent or parents”; “Yes, U.S. citizen by naturalization”; or “No, not a U.S. citizen.”

    However, critics argued that the questions would deter millions of noncitizens from filling out the census, causing an undercount that would favor Republicans. In June 2019, the Supreme Court denied the Trump Administration the ability to add the question to the 2020 Census. 

    Despite the Supreme Court ruling, the Trump administration issued a memorandum calling for the exclusions of undocumented immigrants from apportionment counts. “Apportionment” is the process of dividing the 435 memberships, or seats, in the House of Representatives among the 50 states. The apportionment count relies on census data. The ruling has the possibility of removing an estimated 10 million undocumented people from apportionment counts, affecting the representation each state has within Congress. President Joe Biden signed an executive order in January 2021 reversing the decision to remove undocumented immigrants from apportionment counts.

    Research by the Census Bureau found that including a citizenship question on the 2020 census would have likely deterred many Latinx and Asian American residents from taking part in the national tally, which is also used to redraw maps of voting districts and guide the distribution of an estimated $1.5 trillion a year in federal money to local communities.

    Purpose of the US Census

    Census data helps determ­in­e our polit­ical repres­ent­a­tion, shapes how federal resources are alloc­ated, powers our busi­nesses, drives decisions by schools and police depart­ments, and inform­s medical research. Census data has also been used to distribute more than $1.5 trillion annually for federally funded programs, which are apportioned based on an area’s population, age, and other factors. These programs include Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps, Section 8 housing vouchers, Pell Grants for students, and highway construction and maintenance. In the past, the census has also been at the center of national controversies around slavery, immigration, congressional redistricting, and racial discrimination. 

    Under the Consti­tu­tion, seats in the House of Repres­ent­at­ives are divided among the states every ten years based on the census popu­la­tion count. Seats in the Elect­oral College are alloc­ated the same way. States also use census data to draw district lines for congres­sional and state legis­lat­ive seats – a neces­sary process to make sure communit­ies are fairly repres­en­ted. 

    Both U.S. citizens and noncitizens, regardless of their immigration status, have been part of those official numbers since the country’s first national head count in 1790. The country’s founders believed a national census was necessary to prevent the federal government from arbitrarily levying taxes and to keep individual states from inflating their population estimates to get greater representation in the House of Representatives. 

    Why the US census matters to immigrants

    Census data relies on the accuracy of the survey respondents. Based on the demographic data provided, decisions are made that can directly affect the lives of immigrants. 

    If not counted accurately: 

    • States lose representation in Congress – If immigrants do not fill out the census, states with higher counts of an immigration population, such as California, Texas, and Florida, may be most affected. Less representation in Congress means less voting power to pass laws that could benefit the lives of the state’s immigrant population. 
    • Children lose out on funding needed for schools – Any United States resident has access to primary-level public education, regardless of immigration status. Areas with less census participation could receive an inaccurate population count and therefore receive less federal funding for school programs, such as healthcare, food, and education. 
    • Less funding for healthcare – Neighborhoods with low census response rates could be affected by a lack of funding for hospitals, health care clinics, programs such as Medicaid and Medicare, and COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites. Regardless of immigrant status, residents are eligible to receive care at emergency rooms, health care clinics, and COVID-19 testing sites, but care may be limited due to inadequate federal funding. 
    • Local businesses are impacted – It’s estimated that 3.2 million businesses in the United States are immigrant-owned. Many business owners gather demographic information from their local Chamber of Commerce to understand the potential customers who live in their local area. Chambers rely on census data. If the data provided is inaccurate, business owners could be making decisions that affect the service or products offered, store hours, or how they market to the local community. 

    Congress understands that the privacy and confid­en­ti­al­ity of the inform­a­tion that census parti­cipants provide to the govern­ment is abso­lutely essen­tial to ensur­ing every­one parti­cip­ates confid­ently and fully in the census. As a result, the Census Act includes the strongest privacy and confid­en­ti­al­ity protec­tions that exist in federal law. 

    Employ­ees of the Census Bureau are prohib­ited from shar­ing personal inform­a­tion collected with anyone outside the Bureau, even with the employ­ees of other federal agen­cies. The Bureau’s employ­ees can only use personal information to create stat­ist­ical products that contain no inform­a­tion that can be traced back to an indi­vidual person­ally. Employees who violate the privacy of the survey respondents face up to five years in jail and fines up to $250,000

    Censuses around the world

    Censuses have occurred throughout history, including in China, Egypt, medieval England, and the Roman Empire. But experts say the United States was the first country to use a census to distribute political representation as the basis for its democracy. The US census is also unusual because of the constitutional requirement that it be an “actual enumeration” of the population instead of a rough estimate.

    An advantage of the US approach is that it provides highly detailed data, down to the city-block level for a specific point in time, but a disadvantage is cost. With a final bill of $13 billion, the 2010 US census cost $42 per person; the 2011 Dutch census cost roughly $1.6 million, or nine cents per person.

    According to the UN 2020 World Population and Housing Census Program, almost every country will hold a census between 2015 and 2024. Exceptions include war-torn countries such as Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, and Syria. In addition, some countries, including Brazil, have postponed or altered their census procedures due to the pandemic.

    In many countries, censuses have proven divisive over demographic questions. European countries have faced public outcry over privacy concerns regarding census data. During the Holocaust, census data was weaponized against Jews and other minorities in Germany and elsewhere. To this day, Germany does not collect census data on race. In France, censuses have been barred from asking about race since 1978. An 1872 French law had already prohibited censuses from asking about religious beliefs. The US census has not included questions about citizenship on its forms since the 1960s. 

    The next US census is due to take place in 2030. Regardless of your immigration status, your census participation contributes to how your voice is heard in Congress, the quality of education your children receive, your healthcare options, and even the roads, parks, and public services of your community. 

  9. 10 surprising things that Americans do

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    While each region of the United States has its own quirks and identity, there are certain practices that Americans across the country seem to follow. While these ten practices may seem perfectly normal to Americans, you may find them a bit strange as a newcomer to the United States. 

    1. Treat their pets like family

    Seventy percent of US households, or about 90.5 million families, own a pet, according to the 2021-2022 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA). While owning a dog or a cat is not uncommon in other countries, Americans are known to go above and beyond to make sure their pet is treated like a part of the family. In the past ten years, American pet spending has more than doubled. Forty-five percent of American pet owners spend the same amount of money or more on their pets’ healthcare as they do on their own.

    In addition to putting their pet’s health above their own, ninety percent of Americans treat their pets like family, providing their furry companions with fluffy beds, fancy sweaters, and an abundance of treats and accessories. It’s not unusual for an American family to share their couches, beds, and meals with their pets, providing them with all the same comforts as a cherished family member. 

    2. Watch prescription drug commercials on TV

    The United States is the only country, besides New Zealand, that legally permits “direct-to-consumer” pharmaceutical advertising. This means that when you turn on the TV in America, you may see ads for the latest prescription drug offering for whatever could be ailing you. Americans don’t find it strange to recommend a prescription drug to their doctors. But this wasn’t always the case. Direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising for prescription drugs started mostly in print during the 1980s and moved to TV advertising in the late 1990s. 

    According to the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “no federal law has ever banned DTC advertising. Until the mid-1980s, drug companies only gave prescription drug information to doctors and pharmacists. Then, when these professionals thought it appropriate, they gave that information to their patients. However, during the 1980s, some drug companies started to give the general public more direct access to this information through DTC ads.”

    3. Go to school in yellow school buses

    School bus yellow is a color that was specifically formulated for use on school buses in North America in 1939. Prior to 1939, American children were riding to school in trucks and buses of all different colors and even horse-drawn wagons. The uniformization of school buses would solve two problems while simultaneously revolutionizing how they are manufactured. One, uniformity would make bus travel safer. Two, manufacturers would be able to mass-produce them at lower costs.

    Although many other forms of transportation have changed dramatically over the years, America’s yellow school buses have endured. That’s due, in large part, to the school bus’s astonishing record on safety. According to Smithsonian Magazine, “the school bus transportation system is the largest mass transit system in the United States, yet school buses account for less than one percent of traffic fatalities each year. Students on school buses are 70 times safer than those who travel to school by car “because [school buses] are the most regulated vehicles on the road; they are designed to be safer than passenger vehicles.”

    4. Prefer wide personal spaces

    Personal space varies from culture to culture. According to researchers, the world is sorted into “contact cultures” and “non-contact” cultures. Non-contact cultures like Northern Europe, North America, and Asia expect people to stand further away from each other and touch less. In comparison, people in contact cultures like South America, the Middle East, and Southern Europe are no strangers to standing close to one another. Anthropologist Edward Hall, who coined the term “proxemics” to describe how humans use space, found that Americans reserve space up to 18 inches away from themselves for intimate contact. From 18 inches to 4 feet away is most appropriate for good friends and family members. General public distance for strangers is about 10 feet. 

    A good rule of thumb is to take cues from the American you are conversing with. If they back up as you speak, it may mean they feel uncomfortable with the proximity. Avoid physical contact while speaking, as it could lead to discomfort. In America, touching is a bit too intimate for casual acquaintances. Don’t put your arm around their shoulder, touch their face, or hold their hand. It is acceptable to shake hands when you first meet or part, but only briefly.

    5. Fill in the silence

    Americans often feel uncomfortable with long periods of silence and communicate primarily through verbal interactions. In the United States, many acts of silence are social, such as a moment of silence as a sign of respect during a public prayer or theatrical performance. Asian and Nordic countries have listening cultures where silence denotes careful thought. Listening cultures prefer pauses in a conversation to keep the interchange calm. In some cases, silence can be a way to allow everyone to save face. On the other hand, Americans may translate silence in conversations as indifference, disagreement, or a lack of understanding. In these cases, some Americans may rush to fill the silence with further explanation or a change of subject. 

    Some researchers speculate that fear of silence has much to do with how an individual was raised as a child. For example, Bruce Fell, a Charles Sturt University lecturer, explained that, throughout a six-year period, he observed the behavior of his 580 American undergraduate students and came to the conclusion that the “struggle with silence is a learned behavior,” as all of the students, except for one, grew up in households where the TV, or some other kind of background noise, was constantly playing.

    6. Value being busy

    Americans value time and convenience. Their busy and fast-paced lives welcome the need for drive-through food options, same-day deliveries, ordering food “to-go,” and taking their coffees with them on their daily commutes. As a result, many Americans believe that faster is better and busyness and lack of leisure should be celebrated. One theory suggests that when Americans express they are busy and working all the time, they implicitly suggest that they are sought after, enhancing their perceived status.

    7. Believe bigger is better

    “Getting more for your money” is a common phrase in the United States as most Americans try to maximize the value of their money. The American culture of bigness is unlike any other in the world. When you arrive in the United States, you’ll notice that food portions are larger, stores are bigger with more variety, and American cars and homes are expansive. Americans assume bigger is always better and consider size a measure of excellence. 

    In a Time magazine article, author Sarah Z. Wexler explains that Americans may be obsessed with big things based on “the history of our country and the idea that we had so much space to spread out. The idea of manifest destiny was that we were destined to expand westward until we hit another ocean. But since there isn’t that kind of space for exploration or expansion in our country anymore, [this is how] we stake out our claim. And some of it is just tied to an American sensibility and tied in with machismo. We coined the term “Go big or go home.”

    8. Have a preference for sweeter-tasting bread

    According to the American Heart Association, American adults consume an average of 77 grams of sugar per day, more than three times the recommended amount for women. Much of American processed food relies on high sugar content. Food companies in the United States began to remove fat from processed foods to promote them as healthy alternatives. Sugar was added to compensate for the loss of flavor in fat-free products.

    As a newcomer to America, you’ll notice that the packaged loaves of bread in the grocery store may taste much sweeter than most European bread. The main difference is that American bread comes with more preservatives and additives like high glucose corn syrup, making the loaves stay fresher on grocery store shelves longer. This has even become a legal issue in parts of Europe. For example, in Ireland, a court judge ruled that the bread at Subway, an American fast-food chain that primarily sells submarine sandwiches, was legally not bread at all. The reasoning for this is because of the high quantities of added sugars. In Ireland, Subway bread is legally seen as a confection, similar to cake.

    9. Require air conditioning

    Air conditioning is very much a way of life for Americans. From East Coast to West Coast and everywhere you turn, you’ll never be far away from the constant humming of air conditioners in the summer months. Nearly 90 percent of American households now have some form of air-conditioning, more than any other country except Japan. In a nation with 318 million people accounting for just 4.5% of the world’s population, the United States consumes more energy for air conditioning than the rest of the world combined. It uses more electricity for cooling than Africa, a population of 1.1 billion, uses for everything.

    Cooled air is an essential economic and social technology for some Americans despite its excessive energy consumption. Extreme natural heat kills an average of 618 Americans yearly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, compared to thousands a century ago. It also cuts absenteeism and raises productivity. In a 1957 survey, 90% of US firms named cooled air as the single biggest boost to their productivity.

    10. Share a deep love of peanut butter

    When many Americans recall childhood meals and school lunches, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are almost always part of the nostalgia. This creamy spread of sweet and salty peanuts has been an American food mainstay and pop icon for over a century. As a cheap and high-protein food, Americans have consumed peanuts since enslaved people first brought them to America, but peanut butter wasn’t developed until 1890 and wasn’t mass-produced until the 1920s. Then, the meat shortage caused by World War II made peanut butter an American icon.

    During an interview with National Peanut Board, President and CEO Bob Parker reflect on how peanut butter has evolved from a primarily sandwich spread to a savory cooking ingredient. “While more traditional mothers might now be baking cookies or cakes, millennials are experimenting with international cuisines, and we’re seeing more use of peanut butter in savory dishes. It’s also gaining more traction as a tasty and versatile ingredient by food manufacturers. One example is the explosion of peanut butter ice creams that have come onto the market in the past year or so.”

    Want to learn more about American culture and other uniquely American practices? Check out a few of our other articles:

  10. A newcomer’s guide to owning a business in Oklahoma

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    Immigrants are 80% more likely to start a business in the United States versus native-born Americans. In Oklahoma, 14,453 immigrant business owners accounted for 7 percent of all self-employed Oklahoma residents in 2018 and have generated $252.3 million in business income. Immigrants continue to support the Oklahoma economy in many ways, from their entrepreneurship and contributions to the workforce to their buying power and community involvement. 

    New business owners have found Oklahoma to be an excellent place to start a business. The Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce states that 82.31% of startups survive within their first year of business. According to the Kauffman Indicators of Entrepreneurship, Oklahoma boasts the 3rd highest early startup survival rate in the United States. So if you’re new to the United States and dream of opening your own business, you’ve come to the right place. 

    Oklahoma visa requirements for starting a business

    You do not need to be a US citizen to own a business in Oklahoma or the United States. However, to earn wages at your business, you must have work authorization through a visa. Learn more about your visa options in our article, Starting A Business In Oklahoma Without A Green Card. We also recommend consulting a reputable immigration attorney for knowledgeable advice on which visa is best for your business goals.  

    Five questions for a successful business beginning

    Long-term business success is built on solving a local need. As you are considering what kind of business to start, these questions can help create a solid foundation for success:

    1. What are you passionate about? Owning a business requires a lot of dedication, time, and commitment. It will play a huge factor in your everyday life. Your business should reflect your interests and passions. 
    2. What is missing from your local economy? Your business should meet the needs of the community. Does your location need another restaurant or is it better served by a grocery store or gas station? The bigger the problem you can solve, the bigger the revenue opportunity. Business success is found when you can solve an issue where your community is lacking. 
    3. Who is your ideal customer? Whom do you hope to help with your business? Understanding your ideal target market can help guide you toward developing solutions or products to help meet their needs. 
    4. Can your business idea help secure a financial future? Will your business idea be viable for years to come? If the basis of your business is a new and trendy product or service, can you pivot quickly when your solution is no longer in demand?
    5. How much funding do you have access to? Before your business can make money, it needs a lot of capital to get started. It’s not uncommon for many entrepreneurs to use a mixture of their own money and money from investors or banks to fund the initial startup.

    Creating a business plan

    Once you’ve identified a need and how you plan to provide the solution, you will need to put your idea into action. A business plan is a guidebook on how your business will thrive and survive. The purpose is to outline how your business will make money and grow revenue over the next three to five years. 

    Your business plan is meant to evolve as you learn more about your business and your customers’ needs. It can also be essential in obtaining funding for your business and defining what success should look like. Investors want to see that you have a thought-out plan for how you intend to supply, market, and grow your business. 

    While there is no one way to write a business plan, the US Small Business Administration offers resources to help get you started. Many business plans have these common elements:

    • Company description. This is where you define your company name and business structure. You will need to file your business name and business structure with the Oklahoma Secretary of State. Keep in mind that some business structures require you to be a US citizen. Your company description should also include the location of your business, how many employees, and what your business does. 
    • Market analysis. Know what makes your business different from your competitors. Outline how your business solves your community’s needs and identify your target audience. Describe how you plan to promote your business to help grow your customer base and increase sales. 
    • Operations plan. This section should detail your strategy to manage the day-to-day activities and requirements. Questions to answer in this section should include, what are the essential functions and duties of your employees, who are your product suppliers, what are the hours of operations, how will you price your product or services, what kind of equipment or software is needed to run your business, and who are your operational vendors. 
    • Financial plan. Define what success looks like for your business and what it costs to earn a consistent profit. This section should outline your costs and provide a financial projection of your cash flow management. This section should also answer questions like where you plan on investing your startup funding, whether you have a dedicated bookkeeper to manage taxes, and what your financial outlook is for the next five years. 

    Securing investments

    If your business requires investments or funding to help get you started, a business plan can help investors feel confident that they will see a return on their investment. There are many funding options available for entrepreneurs in Oklahoma. These may include loans from the US Small Business Administration, loans from a commercial bank, or funding from an investor or venture capital (VC) group active in Oklahoma. 

    An angel investor invests their personal funds in a startup, often at the beginning, whereas a venture capital investment funds a business throughout its lifecycle. Venture capital is typically offered in exchange for an ownership share and active role in the company. Current Oklahoma angel investors and VCs include: 

    • Seed Step Angels – SeedStep Angels (SSA) is dedicated to providing quality early-stage investment opportunities for accredited Oklahoma Angel investors and assisting entrepreneurs and early-stage growth companies by serving as a critical source of funding, information, networking, mentorship, and educational resources.
    • Cowboy Technology Angels – Cowboy Technology Angels comprises alumni and other Oklahoma State University friends. Each member of Cowboy Technology Angels is an accredited investor. Members can select their own investments.
    • Oklahoma Venture Forum – Oklahoma Venture Forum (OVF) was founded in 1987 to champion small businesses and economic development by connecting and recognizing venture talents. Their diverse membership includes investors, entrepreneurs, and service providers from various statewide industries.
    • i2E – i2E’s investment arm, i2E Management Company Inc. (iMCI), has more than $92 million of investment capital under management. iMCI serves Oklahoma companies in all phases of the business life cycle, from startups looking for their first round of capital to established businesses seeking funding to expand their markets or products.
    • AngelList: Oklahoma Angel Investors – A comprehensive listing of 4,920 angel investors seeking the opportunity to fund Oklahoma startups.

    Business licensing and other considerations

    Now that you have a plan for your business and information to help fund your endeavors, your next step is to start turning your business idea into a reality. As a business owner, you’ll need to pay federal taxes, hire employees, open a bank account, and apply for business licenses and permits. To pay taxes for your business, you’ll need a federal tax ID number, also known as an Employer Identification Number (EIN), and an Oklahoma tax ID number. Whether you need an EIN is dependent on the type of business structure you choose. For sole proprietorships, an EIN is optional, although it is required for corporations and LLCs. 

    To operate legally in Oklahoma, your new business may need to apply for various permits and licenses. For example, a restaurant will need a liquor license, and a pawn shop will need a reseller’s license. The Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce states, “there is no license required to start or own a business in Oklahoma, but there are specific licenses and permits for different industries and business activities. One of the most common permits is the sales tax permit. It is required for retailers, resellers, or others that sell tangible property on an ongoing basis. Obtain a sales tax permit from the Oklahoma Tax Commission.”

    Some businesses in Oklahoma that do not require licenses include:

    • Cleaning services
    • Lawn care services
    • Automotive and truck repair
    • Computer and IT services
    • Business consulting
    • Home and kitchen appliance repair and installation
    • Garage door repair and installation
    • Gutter repair and installation
    • Window and door repair and installation services

    Business insurance is also a good idea to protect your business against property damage or legal action. In addition, if your company has employees, you are required by the federal government to have workers’ compensation and unemployment insuranceFor more information on how to start a small business in Oklahoma, read our article, Small business resources for immigrant entrepreneurs. The article includes tips on business owner basics, additional ways of acquiring business capital, and essential business owner information for immigrants. Questions on how your immigration status may affect your business? Contact Stump and Associates for current and knowledgable advice on navigating immigration laws and Oklahoma business guidelines.