Author Archives: Jenn Clore

  1. A newcomer’s guide to religion in America

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    Religion has profoundly influenced the history, values, and societal norms of the United States, from the historical roots that shape religious freedom to the diversity of faiths celebrated today. Having a clear understanding of America’s history with religion and religious diversity is important for newcomers to the United States, as it can help you integrate successfully into American society, promote mutual respect, and enhance your social and professional interactions.

    Religion in American history

    Religious motivations, beliefs, and conflicts deeply influenced the founding and development of the United States. Religion in the United States began with the spiritual practices of Native Americans and was later influenced by the arrival of European colonists seeking religious freedom. The 13 original colonies (New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia) were established by British colonists for a range of reasons, from the pursuit of fortunes, to escape from religious prosecution to the desire to create new forms of government.

    Early colonists in the United States, the Puritans, seeking to reform the Established Church of England from within, faced persecution and sought a place to practice their faith freely. This led to the establishment of the Plymouth Colony in 1620 by the Pilgrims, marking a significant Puritan influence on several early American colonies.

    Other religious groups also sought refuge in America. William Penn and his fellow Quakers founded Pennsylvania as a haven for Quakers facing persecution in England. Maryland was founded by Cecil Calvert as a refuge for English Catholics. Additionally, Pennsylvania and North Carolina attracted dissidents from Germany and Ireland seeking religious freedom and economic opportunity.

    The principle of religious freedom is preserved in the US Constitution, reflecting the diverse religious landscape of the early United States. The First Amendment guaranteed religious liberty, prohibiting Congress from establishing a religion or impeding the free exercise of religion. 

    Religious diversity in America

    The United States is home to a wide array of religious beliefs. As of the early 21st century, Christianity remains one of the most prominent religions, with Protestantism being the most prevalent form. However, the nation has also seen significant numbers of Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and individuals of other faiths, as well as a growing segment of the population identifying as non-religious or “Nones.”

    Christianity

    Christianity remains the predominant religion in the United States, with a significant majority of Americans identifying as Christian. This includes a variety of denominations, with Protestantism and Catholicism being the most prominent. Protestantism itself is diverse, encompassing numerous denominations such as Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Pentecostals. Catholics form a substantial part of the Christian population, reflecting both historical migrations from Catholic-majority countries and ongoing immigration trends. Other Christian groups include Orthodox Christians, Mormons (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

    Judaism

    Judaism has a long history in the United States, with Jewish communities contributing significantly to American culture, politics, and society. The Jewish population in the US is diverse, including Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and other streams of Judaism.

    Islam

    Islam is practiced by a growing number of Americans, with Muslims representing a wide range of ethnic backgrounds, including African Americans, immigrants from Muslim-majority countries, and converts. The Muslim population in the US is noted for its diversity and includes Sunni, Shia, and other Islamic traditions.

    Hinduism and Buddhism

    Hinduism and Buddhism, while smaller in comparison to the Abrahamic faiths, have established vibrant communities in the United States. Hinduism has been bolstered by immigration from South Asia, while Buddhism has attracted both Asian immigrants and American converts, reflecting a wide range of traditions within these religions.

    Other Religions and the Unaffiliated

    The United States is also home to practitioners of Sikhism, Baha’i, and numerous other faiths, reflecting the global nature of religious practice. Additionally, a significant portion of the American population identifies as religiously unaffiliated, including atheists, agnostics, and those who describe their religion as “nothing in particular.” This group, often referred to as the “Nones,” represents a growing segment of the population.

    The role of religion in contemporary American culture

    In contemporary America, religion continues to be a vital aspect of cultural identity for many. It influences various facets of life, including politics, education, and community engagement. Religion has been instrumental in shaping American values such as liberty, equality, and the pursuit of happiness. These values are deeply embedded in the nation’s founding documents, including the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The American national identity and patriotism are often linked to Christianity, as seen in public religious rhetoric like “God Bless America” or the statement “In God We Trust” found on currency.

    Religion’s role in politics is complex and often contentious. While many Americans see religion as a force for good in society, there is a desire to keep it out of politics. Views on religion’s impact on public life vary significantly between Republicans and Democrats, with Republicans more likely to view religion’s declining influence as regrettable. The political landscape has been influenced by religious beliefs, with evangelical Christians and conservative Catholics often supporting the Republican Party and the Democratic Party attracting a more secular demographic.

    Religious organizations play a significant role in community life, often providing social services, support networks, and moral guidance. Examples of religious organizations involved in social services include Catholic Charities USA, Lutheran Services in America, The Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity International, and Volunteers of America. These organizations offer various services, from disaster relief to building affordable housing for families in need. Religious beliefs can also influence personal behaviors and ethical decisions, shaping how individuals interact within their communities and resolve conflicts.

    Religious freedom and its implications

    In the United States, the legal protections for religious freedom are primarily protected in the First Amendment to the US Constitution, which includes two clauses that deal with the freedom of religion: the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause.

    The Establishment Clause prohibits the government from establishing an official religion, endorsing or favoring one religion over another. It also prevents the government from preferring religion over non-religion or vice versa. This clause is the basis for the principle of separation of church and state, ensuring that the government remains neutral in religious matters.

    The Free Exercise Clause protects individuals’ rights to practice their religion as they please, so long as the practice does not run afoul of public morals or a compelling governmental interest. This means that the government cannot penalize or burden individuals because of their religious beliefs and practices unless there is a significant reason to do so, such as protecting public health and safety.

    Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 further protects individuals from discrimination in the workplace based on religion. It requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees’ religious practices unless doing so would cause undue hardship to the employer. 

    Navigating religious diversity

    Respecting religious diversity is crucial for newcomers to the United States, given the country’s wide array of faith traditions and the importance of religion in many Americans’ lives. Here are some practical tips focused on understanding basic religious etiquettes and customs, as well as being open to learning about different faiths.

    1. Research major religious observances: Familiarize yourself with the major holidays and observances of different faiths, such as Christmas and Easter (Christianity), Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (Judaism), Ramadan and Eid (Islam), Diwali (Hinduism), and Vesak (Buddhism). Knowing these can help you show respect for others’ traditions.
    2. Appropriate greetings: Learn the common greetings associated with different religious holidays, such as “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Hanukkah,” or “Eid Mubarak.” Using these greetings during the respective holidays can be a simple way to show respect and goodwill.
    3. Dress codes: Be aware of and respect any dress codes when visiting places of worship. For example, covering your head may be required in mosques and Sikh gurdwaras, and modest dress is often expected in churches, synagogues, and temples.
    4. Behavior in places of worship: Understand the basic dos and don’ts when visiting different places of worship. This might include removing your shoes before entering a mosque or Hindu temple, remaining quiet inside a church during services, or standing when prayers are offered.
    5. Food etiquettes: Be mindful of dietary restrictions associated with different religions, such as kosher laws in Judaism, halal guidelines in Islam, and vegetarianism in Hinduism and Buddhism. Showing awareness and consideration for these practices can be a sign of respect.

    Many communities host interfaith dialogues, celebrations, and educational events. Participating in these can provide valuable insights into different religious practices and beliefs, fostering a deeper understanding and respect. In addition, many religious communities welcome visitors to their services or offer tours of their places of worship. This can be an excellent opportunity to learn firsthand about a religion’s practices and meet its followers. When in doubt, ask respectful questions. Most people are happy to share information about their religious beliefs and practices. Showing genuine interest and curiosity can lead to meaningful conversations and connections.

    Respecting religious diversity involves understanding and appreciating the customs and etiquettes of different faiths and being open to learning about and engaging with various religious traditions. By following these practical tips, newcomers can navigate the religious landscape of the US with sensitivity and respect, contributing to a more inclusive and understanding community.

  2. A newcomer’s guide to the American Super Bowl experience

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    On Sunday, February 11, 2024, an annual American cultural event known as the Super Bowl will take place in Las Vegas, Nevada. As a newcomer in the United States, it’s helpful to understand how this event holds significant cultural and entertainment value for Americans. 

    The Super Bowl is the annual National Football League (NFL) championship game in the United States. It is the final game of the NFL season and is played between the winners of the two leagues, the National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC). The game is a major sporting event with a storied past and is practically a cultural holiday in the United States. It is traditionally played on a Sunday and is often called “Super Bowl Sunday” or “Super Sunday.” 

    The event has become a significant part of American culture, drawing millions of viewers and serving as a social gathering where people come together to watch the game, enjoy food, and engage with the commercials and halftime show. The Super Bowl has also been used to showcase and engage with immigration-related narratives through advertising, reflecting the diverse fabric of American society.

    The cultural significance of the Super Bowl

    The Super Bowl holds immense significance in American culture, encompassing sports, entertainment, and advertising. It has evolved into a national event, drawing over 100 million viewers and a social gathering for Americans. According to this LinkedIn article, “Although only a third of the country actually watches the Super Bowl, almost 10x as many people who watch the NFL during the regular season, it seems as though “everybody” partakes in the cultural spectacle that surrounds the game.”

    The event reflects and influences various aspects of American life and values, making it a cultural phenomenon transcending mere football. The Super Bowl is not just about what occurs during the game; it includes everything happening around it—such as rituals, artifacts, and language. All these things together create a mix of meanings that have made the Super Bowl a cultural moment in American society. 

    Rituals can range from pre-game traditions like tailgating parties, where fans gather in the parking lots before the game to celebrate and socialize, to halftime show festivities that have become iconic in their own right. For example, the halftime show is known for featuring top-tier musical performances and often includes elaborate choreography and special effects, adding an extra layer of entertainment and cultural resonance.

    Artifacts are crucial in shaping the Super Bowl’s cultural identity. This includes memorabilia such as team jerseys, foam fingers, and collectible merchandise that fans proudly display or wear to show support for their favorite teams. The Super Bowl trophy itself, the Vince Lombardi Trophy, serves as a symbol of achievement and is eagerly sought after by competing teams.

    The language associated with the Super Bowl also contributes to its cultural significance. This can be seen in the way fans engage in spirited discussions, use team-specific terminology, and create a unique lexicon around the event. Phrases like “Hail Mary pass” or “touchdown dance” become part of the linguistic landscape, fostering a sense of community among fans.

    Understanding American football

    American football originated in North America, primarily in the United States, and evolved from English rugby and soccer. The sport’s roots can be traced back to a game between Princeton and Yale on November 6, 1869, which looked like a mix of rugby and soccer. It wasn’t until the 1880s that Walter Camp, a rugby player from Yale, significantly contributed to the transformation of English rugby into American football. The sport continued to evolve over the years, eventually becoming one of the mainstream sports in the United States.

    American football is a team sport played on a rectangular field with goalposts at each end. One team aims to advance an oval-shaped ball, called a football, toward the opponent’s end zone to score points.

    The main elements of the game include:

    1. Scoring:
    • A team scores points by carrying the ball across the opponent’s goal line (a touchdown), worth six points.
    • After a touchdown, the scoring team has the option to kick an extra point through the goalposts or attempt a two-point conversion by running or passing the ball into the end zone.
    • Overall, points can be scored through touchdowns (6 points), extra point kicks (1 or 2 points), two-point conversion plays (2 points), field goals (3 points), or safeties (2 points).
    1. Advancement of the ball:
    • Teams can advance the ball by running with it or passing it to teammates.
    • The offense has four attempts, called downs, to advance the ball at least 10 yards. If successful, they get another set of four downs.
    1. Defense
    • The opposing team aims to stop the offense from advancing and scoring. This involves tackling the ball carrier, intercepting passes, or causing fumbles.
    • If the defense stops the offense, they gain possession of the ball, and their team becomes the offense.
    1. Special Teams:
    • Special teams handle kicking plays, including kickoffs, punts, and field goal attempts. Field goals are worth three points and are taken from various distances.
    1. Clock Management:
    • The game includes a game clock that runs continuously, stopping only for certain events like incomplete passes or timeouts.
    • Each team has 11 players on the field at any one time. The game consists of four 15-minute quarters with a 12-minute halftime.
    1. Positions:
    • Players have specific positions, such as quarterback, running back, wide receiver, lineman, linebacker, and defensive back, each with unique roles on offense or defense.
    1. Strategic Elements:
    • Coaches and players employ various offensive and defensive strategies, including play calling, formations, and tactical maneuvers to outsmart the opposing team.

    The physical nature of American football, strategic gameplay, and the combination of skill, strength, and teamwork contribute to its popularity. It’s a dynamic sport with a unique set of rules that distinguish it from other forms of football played around the world.

    Super Bowl halftime show

    The halftime break in a football game serves as a multifaceted intermission. It allows players to rest and strategize, coaches to make adjustments, and fans to engage in entertainment and other activities. The Super Bowl halftime show, in particular, has become a significant cultural element, reaching a wide audience beyond the traditional football fanbase. 

    The show is a fundamental link to pop culture, broadening the television audience and nationwide interest in the event. Featuring high-profile musical performances and entertainment, the halftime show becomes a platform for cultural learning, allowing immigrants to explore American music, pop culture, and entertainment trends. Halftime has become almost as important as the football game itself, attracting non-sports fans and serving as a platform for some of the biggest stars in music. The show has evolved from its early days featuring university marching bands to major hit musicians and high-profile acts, becoming a place where artists aim to be seen in front of a national audience. 

    As a highly anticipated event, the show often attracts more viewers than the game itself. Therefore, the significance of the Super Bowl halftime show lies in its role as a cultural spectacle that merges sports and entertainment, showcasing some of the most prominent artists and performances of the year.

    The Super Bowl’s significance for immigrants

    The Super Bowl holds relevance for immigrants in several meaningful ways. As a significant cultural event in the United States, it serves as a national winter carnival, providing a chance for immigrants to engage in social gatherings, watch the game, and participate in festivities alongside friends and family. It can also be seen as a window into American society and culture through sports, patriotism, entertainment, and advertising. As such, it’s a cultural phenomenon that reflects and influences various aspects of American life and values. 

    The Super Bowl has also been used to showcase and engage with immigration-related narratives through advertising, reflecting the diverse fabric of American society. For instance, the 2017 Super Bowl featured an ad by 84 Lumber that depicted the story of a mother and daughter traveling through Mexico on their way to the US, which was seen as unambiguously pro-immigration. Budweiser also released a Super Bowl ad the same year centered around the story of its co-founder, Adolphus Busch, an immigrant to the United States. The ad highlighted the immigrant experience and the pursuit of the American dream. 

    These ads, and others like it, have used the platform of the Super Bowl to highlight the immigrant experience and the pursuit of the American dream, reflecting the cultural and social diversity of the United States. Newcomers may find the Super Bowl an opportunity to understand and engage with various facets of American culture and society.

    What is a Super Bowl party?

    A Super Bowl party is an annual gathering typically held on the day of the Super Bowl. It is an opportunity for people to come together, enjoy the game, socialize, and have fun. Super Bowl parties often feature a variety of snacks, drinks, and games and are a popular tradition in the United States. These parties may include activities such as watching the halftime show and the highly anticipated commercials that air during the game.

    If you have the opportunity to attend a Super Bowl party, ask questions about the game and the event, as it can be a valuable opportunity to learn more about American culture and connect with your community. It can be a fun and enriching experience for immigrants, providing participation in an important aspect of American culture.

    When attending the party, you may experience some cultural customs and traditions such as:

    • Casual Atmosphere: Super Bowl parties are typically casual and laid-back events. Attendees often wear the jerseys or colors of the teams playing, but casual attire is generally acceptable.
    • Game Knowledge: While optional, having a basic understanding of American football and the teams playing in the Super Bowl can enhance the experience. Immigrants may want to familiarize themselves with the basic rules of the game and the significance of the event.
    • Snack Culture: Super Bowl parties are known for their snack culture. Traditional foods such as buffalo chicken dip, hot wings, chili, sliders, and nachos are commonly served. It’s customary for guests to graze on these snacks throughout the game.
    • Commercials and Halftime Show: The commercials that air during the Super Bowl and the halftime show are often as anticipated as the game itself. Immigrants should be prepared for lively discussions about the commercials and the halftime entertainment.
    • Socializing: Super Bowl parties are as much about socializing as they are about the game. Immigrants should be prepared to engage in friendly banter, discuss the game, and enjoy the company of the other guests.

    What to bring to a Super Bowl party

    If invited to a Super Bowl party, you may consider bringing items such as:

    1. Beverages: A case of beer, craft beer, or a bottle of wine can be a suitable contribution. It’s also thoughtful to ask the host if there are specific drinks they would like you to bring.
    2. Party Supplies: Consider bringing items like cups, ice, or drink stirrers. These can be practical and helpful additions to the party.
    3. Snacks or Appetizers: While the host may have arranged food, bringing a small snack or appetizer can be a thoughtful gesture. This could also be an excellent opportunity to share your culture through food. However, checking with the host beforehand is essential to avoid duplicating items or any known allergies.
    4. Team-Themed Items: If you have a team you’re supporting, bringing team-themed decor, such as napkins, plates, or small trinkets, can show your spirit and add to the festive atmosphere.

    By bringing these items, you can contribute to the party and show appreciation to the host for the invitation. While bringing something may not be expected, it’s always a good idea to check with the host in advance to see if the party has any specific needs or preferences.

    Attending a Super Bowl party becomes not just a social event but a gateway to American culture, offering newcomers the chance to connect with others, enjoy the game, and partake in festivities. By understanding the cultural customs and traditions associated with these gatherings, you can actively engage in the Super Bowl experience while creating memorable experiences in your new country.

  3. 2024 immigration policy outlook: The impact on students, visa holders, and employers

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    In 2024, several key updates in immigration policies are set to shape the landscape for international students, H-1B visa holders, and individuals navigating the complex web of immigration regulations in the United States. Here are a few headlines that we are keeping an eye on this year: 

    F and M student visa clarification updates

    The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued updates regarding the policy guidance on classifications for F and M nonimmigrant student visas. The updates aim to consolidate and clarify existing policies and provide international students and US educational institutions with more precise guidelines. The guidance covers various topics, including the agency’s role in adjudicating applications for employment authorization, change of status, extension of stay, and reinstatement of status for students and their dependents in the United States. 

    The guidance clarifies that F and M students must intend to depart from the United States following their temporary periods of stay, typically after completing their degree program and any practical training. This stipulation is an essential part of the visa application process and is designed to ensure that students do not have the intention of permanently immigrating to the US. Notably, the policy clarifies that F and M students can be beneficiaries of a permanent labor certification application or immigrant visa petition without necessarily impacting their eligibility. 

    For employers, the guidance specifies that F-1 students pursuing the STEM optional practical training (OPT) extension can work for start-up businesses if regulatory requirements are met. During this extension, alternative forms of compensation, such as stock options, may be permitted as long as they are commensurate with the compensation provided to native-born US workers. 

    H-1B renewal pilot program for Canadian and Indian nationals makes in-country renewals more convenient

    The US Department of State has introduced a pilot program for H-1B visa renewals that allows eligible individuals to renew their H-1B visas from within the United States. The program, in effect until April 1, 2024, is specifically designed for those with H-1B visas issued by US consulates in Canada (between January 1, 2020, and April 1, 2023) or in India (between February 1, 2021, and September 30, 2021). 

    With 4,000 weekly application slots available from January 29 to February 26, 2024, the criteria for eligibility include:

    • The applicant must be seeking to renew an existing H-1B visa.
    • The applicant must be eligible for an in-person visa interview waiver.
    • The applicant must have submitted ten fingerprints to the consulate with a previous visa application.
    • The applicant must have an approved and unexpired H-1B petition.
    • The applicant must have recently been admitted to the United States in H-1B status.
    • The applicant must be currently maintaining H-1B status in the United States.
    • The applicant’s period of authorized admission in H-1B status must remain valid.
    • The applicant must intend to reenter the United States in H-1B status after a temporary period abroad.

    The program aims to streamline processes, reduce visa wait times, and shift workloads from overseas posts to the United States, benefiting Indian and Canadian nationals. Applications can be submitted until April 1, 2024; further details are available on the US Department of State website. The anticipated processing duration is estimated to be between 6 and 8 weeks, with the goal of completing all applications by May 1, 2024. Requests for expedited processing requests will not be included. In urgent travel needs, applicants applying for domestic visa renewal can withdraw their application and apply through the standard process abroad. 

    Processing fee increases may take effect in early 2024

    The proposed processing fee changes affecting US immigrants will be effective on February 26, 2024. The fee increases include:

    • H-1B/O-1/E-3/TN: from $2,500 to $2,805
    • I-140 (Permanent Residency): from $2,500 to $2,805
    • I-129 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker): from $1,750 to $1,965
    • I-539 (Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status for certain categories): from $1,750 to $1,965
    • I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization for certain categories): from $1,500 to $1,685

    These fee adjustments reflect inflationary increases from June 2021 through June 2023. The premium processing services offer expedited processing for a variety of the most commonly used immigration benefits. The increased fees will be required for all requests postmarked on or after February 26, 2024.

    The rationale behind adjusting premium processing fees is to account for inflation and to generate funds that can be used to provide premium processing services, improve existing adjudication processes, reduce processing backlogs, and enhance funding for other adjudication and naturalization services. 

    H-1B lottery changes

    The proposed H-1B visa rule, announced on October 23, 2023, introduces changes to the H-1B selection process, which is expected to impact the upcoming H-1B lottery in March 2024. The key changes include a shift to focusing on unique beneficiaries rather than unique registrations, aiming to reduce the likelihood of multiple entries by the same individual and increase the opportunity for a diverse range of applicants. 

    Currently, USCIS employs a lottery system when the number of H-1B applications (or registrations) from companies surpasses the annual cap of 85,000 (comprising 65,000 regular slots and an additional 20,000 exemptions for advanced degree holders from US universities). According to the proposed rule, USCIS noted that registrations for Fiscal Year 2024 experienced a notable rise, primarily attributed to the submission of multiple registrations for the same individuals.

    The new process will use passport information to identify beneficiaries, and individuals will select among the employers that submitted H-1B registrations on their behalf. While employers may benefit from certain aspects of the proposed rule, such as the “cap-gap” employment protection for international students, there have been some criticisms. Specifically, the rule introduces the term “directly related specific specialty” to narrow down positions considered specialty occupations. According to the rule, a degree in a directly related specific specialty is required for a position to qualify as a specialty occupation. 

    According to Forbes, “Evidence indicates the new narrower definition of what qualifies as an H-1B specialty occupation would prevent an indeterminate number of current and future foreign-born professionals from working in the United States.” Notably, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) does not explicitly state that a degree must be in a “directly related” specific specialty. Concerns are raised that these proposed restrictions may also be at odds with the goal of attracting AI talent that was outlined in President Biden’s AI executive order

    Emerging Equal Pay Transparency (EPT) laws

    The Equal Pay Transparency (EPT) laws, passed in several states and localities, are expected to significantly impact the immigration landscape in 2024. These laws typically require the disclosure of pay ranges in recruitment. Specifically, the EPT laws may affect the federal Labor Condition Application (LCA) notice requirements for H-1B petitions, as well as the recruitment process required for PERM labor certification. 

    The EPT laws’ requirement for disclosure of pay scales and pay ranges will require adjustments in employers’ recruitment practices, especially in jurisdictions where these laws are in effect. The specific requirements of the EPT laws vary by location, and compliance with these laws is essential for employers. 

    Employers must adhere to state pay transparency laws and the prevailing wage requirements set by the Department of Labor (DOL), even when they may not align with the salary ranges specified for other positions. As a result, the EPT laws are expected to introduce changes in recruitment and advertising practices, impacting the immigration-related green card recruitment process and the H-1B visa application process. We recommend employers consult a reputable immigration law firm to ensure strict compliance with immigration regulations. 

    Immigration-related state laws

    Texas

    Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed three border security bills into state law on December 18, 2023, with the laws set to take effect in the coming months. One of the bills, Senate Bill 4 (SB 4), makes illegal immigration a state crime and grants Texas law enforcement the authority to arrest any undocumented immigrant within state lines. This law is scheduled to take effect on March 5, 2024. The legislation also allocates $1.5 billion in state funds to continue the construction of barriers along the 1,200-mile border with Mexico. 

    Additionally, it allows the state to pursue and prosecute irregular border crossings as state-level crimes, with charges ranging from a misdemeanor to a felony. The US Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against Texas, arguing that SB 4 is unconstitutional and interferes with the federal government’s authority to regulate immigration. The lawsuit seeks to prevent Texas from implementing the law, citing violations of the US Constitution’s Supremacy Clause and Foreign Commerce Clause. The outcome of the legal challenges and the implementation of SB 4 will have significant implications for immigration policy and enforcement in Texas.

    Illinois 

    In Illinois, a new law is set to take effect, allowing non-citizens who are legally authorized to work in the US and permitted to possess firearms under federal law to become state police officers and deputy sheriffs. This law, known as House Bill 3751, is scheduled to take effect in the coming weeks, and it extends the opportunity to apply for these law enforcement positions to legal permanent residents and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients. 

    The legislation has sparked significant debate, with proponents arguing that it addresses a longstanding shortage of police officers in Illinois. At the same time, critics have raised concerns about the implications of allowing non-citizens to serve in these roles. The law’s supporters emphasize that it is specifically limited to individuals legally eligible to work in the US and authorized to possess firearms under federal law. The measure is a significant development in the ongoing national conversation about immigration policy and law enforcement practices.

    California

    California is set to become the first state to offer health insurance to all eligible undocumented adults as the state expands its health care coverage under a new law that took effect on January 1, 2024. This expansion will make more than 700,000 undocumented immigrants between the ages of 26 and 49 eligible for Medi-Cal, California’s version of the federal Medicaid program for low-income people. Previously, Medi-Cal was only available to children and undocumented individuals over 50. 

    The move is part of California’s efforts to provide comprehensive healthcare and ensure that all residents have access to affordable healthcare coverage regardless of income or immigration status. The expansion is expected to cost the state about $3.1 billion per year and is seen as a significant step in closing the gap in healthcare access for low-income immigrants living in California. The new law has been praised by immigration and healthcare advocates, who believe that the expanded coverage will ultimately save the state money by providing comprehensive care and reducing the need for expensive emergency room treatments. However, some critics have raised concerns about the cost of the expansion and the eligibility of undocumented immigrants for state-funded health insurance. 

    Multiple states impacted

    In 2024, nearly 10 million people in 22 states across the US are expected to experience a rise in the minimum wage, with an estimated $6.95 billion in additional wages projected to be distributed due to these increases. Furthermore, on January 1, an additional 38 cities and counties will raise their minimum wages above their respective state’s “wage floors.” While some small business owners express concerns about the long-term implications of these changes, proponents of the wage hikes argue that they have the potential to positively impact hundreds of thousands of individuals.

    The Economic Policy Institute states, “The minimum wage increases will also disproportionately benefit Black and Hispanic workers. Black workers make up 9.0% of the wage-earning workforce in the states with increases but are 11.1% of the affected workers. Similarly, Hispanic workers are 19.6% of the workforce in these states, but 37.9% of the workers receiving wage increases.”

    Looking forward in 2024

    The immigration landscape in 2024 is marked by significant policy updates impacting students, visa holders, and individuals navigating complex regulations. From F and M student visa clarifications to the innovative H-1B renewal pilot program and impending processing fee increases, individuals and employers must stay informed. The proposed H-1B lottery changes and emerging Equal Pay Transparency laws add further complexity to the landscape. 

    Amid these shifts, Stump and Associates stand ready to assist with immigration concerns. As a reputable immigration law firm, our experienced professionals offer guidance on policy nuances, procedural changes, and strategic approaches. Whether addressing visa renewals, navigating lottery modifications, or ensuring compliance with evolving laws, our team is committed to providing comprehensive support. For tailored immigration solutions and expert counsel, contact Stump and Associates today. Your immigration journey deserves knowledgeable and dedicated advocates by your side.

  4. How border agreements and the 2024 presidential election impact your immigration

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    In 2024, a US presidential election year, discussions on border control and agreements are crucial. These agreements can significantly influence immigration patterns, visa enforcement strategies, and humanitarian concerns. Border agreements often involve multiple countries and aim to manage the flow of migrants and asylum seekers across country borders. For example, the US and Mexico have agreements on deterring illegal border crossings, the types of immigrants each country will accept, and implementing security measures.

    According to an article by the National Library of Medicine, US border agreements may also have unintended consequences, such as causing a surge in unlawful migration rather than acting as a deterrent. At Stump and Associates, we know it’s important to consider the impact border control has on immigration policies and their potential effects on our clients. 

    The purpose of border agreements

    Border agreements aim to facilitate the secure and efficient movement of people and goods across borders while addressing security and humanitarian concerns. 

    Many border agreements intend to:

    1. Create visa policies: Agreements may include mutual visa policies, allowing for the freedom of movement across borders for residents in border areas and replacing passport checks with visual surveillance of vehicles at reduced speed. An example of this type of agreement is the Schengen Agreement in the European Union. 
    2. Establish information exchange: Customs Mutual Assistance Agreements (CMAA) provide the legal framework for the exchange of information to assist in the enforcement against customs offenses and the prevention of crimes associated with goods crossing international borders.
    3. Provide coordinated border management: Agreements may involve a comprehensive approach to border management and control, combining customs, immigration, border security, and agricultural protection into one coordinated and supportive activity.
    4. Prevent illegal activities: Agreements aim to protect borders from the illicit movement of weapons, drugs, contraband, and people while promoting lawful entry and exit and lawful trade, which is essential to homeland security and economic prosperity.
    5. Ensure humanitarian provisions: Some agreements may include provisions for the treatment of asylum seekers and refugees, such as the Safe Third Country Agreement and the inactive Migrant Protection Protocols, which restrict asylum seekers’ ability to access protection in the US, Canada, and Mexico.

    Why border agreements should matter to prospective immigrants

    Border control agreements matter to people considering immigrating to the United States for several reasons. These agreements can impact the ability of individuals to seek asylum or refuge in the US by affecting the flow of refugees and asylum seekers, as well as the safety and well-being of those individuals. For example, the US-Mexico Migration Cooperation Agreement and the Safe Third Country Agreement between the United States and Canada have restricted the ability of asylum seekers to access protection in these countries, leading to increased risk and vulnerability for those individuals. 

    Concerns have been raised about the violation of the human rights of migrants and asylum seekers. Countries establishing barriers to prevent migrants from setting foot on their territories can force them to stay in the first country they reach once rather than seeking asylum in their intended destination. This can make it hard for asylum seekers to ask for safety, get help, or be treated well

    An article by Human Rights First claims that the US-Mexico Migration Cooperation Agreement and the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) between the United States and Canada have affected asylum seekers’ ability to access protection in these countries. The article also alleges that the implementation of border agreements has resulted in human rights violations, including the denial of fair access to the asylum system, the separation of families, and the return of asylum seekers to dangerous environments. Policies such as the Migrant Protection Protocols have resulted in unsafe conditions for asylum seekers waiting at the US-Mexico border, highlighting the challenges and dangers that refugees and asylum seekers face as a result of border agreements.

    Criticisms of immigration border agreements 

    Border agreements as a tool for immigration control have faced significant criticism, with several key points raised. The criticisms listed below shed light on the complex and challenging circumstances of US immigration policies:

    • Incentivizing illegal border crossings: Some border agreements, such as the US-Mexico Migration Cooperation Agreement, have been criticized for incentivizing irregular border crossings and encouraging migrants to try to evade detection. According to the American Immigration Council, with more restrictions at the border, there are currently over 1.3 million pending asylum applications, including roughly 750,000 in immigration courts and over 600,000 at US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The average asylum case in immigration court now takes 4.25 years from the start through a final asylum hearing.
    • Impact on border security and drug seizures: Some have argued that processing asylum seekers has led to a reduction in the agency’s ability to seize drugs coming across the border and that cartels have used large migrant crossings to distract border agents in some circumstances. 
    • Overwhelming resources: Agreements that result in increased deportations from Mexico may strain federal resources and overwhelm already-crowded facilities in the US.

    Alternatives to border control

    Several alternatives to border agreements for immigration control have been proposed. One alternative involves increasing resources to the US Border Patrol to improve the humanitarian processing and transportation of migrants. This includes expanding Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) capacity to process asylum seekers at ports of entry in a timely, orderly, and fair manner and publicizing this route. Alternatively, the National Immigration Forum proposes the creation of a border court division of the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) to allow for faster resolution of cases involving recent entrants at the border, resolving long asylum case wait times. Other approaches include significant reforms to the current immigration system and addressing the root causes of migration.

    The proposed alternatives to border agreements for immigration control are highly relevant in the 2024 presidential election year. US immigration policies have been a longstanding and contentious issue, and they are expected to be debated and considered by presidential candidates and policymakers during the election year. The surge of asylum seekers and migrants at the US border has intensified the focus on finding practical and humane solutions to manage the situation. 

    Humanitarian immigration options in the United States

    Border control agreements often intend to deter unlawful entry into the United States and reduce the number of asylum seekers. Humanitarian pathways for immigration offer alternative routes for individuals seeking safety and protection. These pathways are designed to provide permanent protections in the US to those fleeing persecution and violence. By bolstering alternatives, the US aims to offer more guaranteed access to protections, work authorization, and family reunification, effectively reducing pressure at the border and easing the strain on the overburdened asylum system.

    The United States offers several humanitarian pathways for immigration, including the following:

    1. Temporary Protected Status (TPS): TPS is granted to eligible nationals of designated countries already in the United States. It allows them to stay for a limited period due to temporary conditions in their home countries, such as armed conflict or environmental disasters.
    2. Humanitarian Parole: Individuals outside of the United States may request parole in the United States based on humanitarian or significant public benefit reasons.
    3. Refugee Resettlement: Refugees are individuals who are unable or unwilling to return to their home country because of a well-founded fear of persecution due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. The US Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) considers refugees for resettlement in the United States.

    The impact of US border agreements on immigration is a critical issue, particularly in the lead-up to the 2024 presidential election. These agreements have far-reaching implications for immigration patterns, visa enforcement strategies, and humanitarian concerns. As the discussions around border control and agreements continue to evolve, it is essential to consider how they may affect you or your family. 

    At Stump and Associates, we are committed to navigating these complex issues and advocating for our clients’ best interests. If you have questions or concerns about your immigration situation or need expert guidance on related matters, please send us a message. Our team of experienced professionals is dedicated to providing comprehensive support and legal expertise in many areas of immigration law.

  5. Can US military service fast-track your US citizenship?

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    Embarking on the journey to become a US citizen is a significant undertaking for immigrants. However, serving in the US military holds some unique advantages for immigrants, including the opportunity for expedited citizenship, job security, education benefits, training, and the chance to contribute to the country’s defense and security. Immigrants are welcome to join various branches, such as the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard. 

    Accelerated naturalization through military service

    To become a US citizen through military service, one must meet specific criteria and requirements. While we recommend consulting with a reputable immigration lawyer and your military recruiter, here are some basic guidelines for those considering this route to naturalization:

    Service Requirements:

    • You must be 18 years old or older
    • Have served honorably at any time in the US armed forces for periods totaling at least one year

    Residence and physical presence:

    • Be a lawful permanent resident at the time of the naturalization interview
    • If stationed outside the United States, you may submit two properly completed FD-258 fingerprint cards taken by the military police, Department of Homeland Security officials, or U.S. Embassy or Consulate officials
    • If you are overseas or unable to report for fingerprinting, USCIS will request and use your enlistment fingerprints if they are available. 
    • If you are currently serving overseas, you may be interviewed and naturalized abroad at certain military installations. You may request overseas processing at any time in the naturalization process. Please see www.uscis.gov/military for specific instructions

    Language and knowledge:

    • Demonstrate the ability to read, write, and speak English unless qualified for a waiver or exception
    • Demonstrate understanding of US history and government, unless exempt

    Naturalization process:

    • Complete Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. The standard application fee is waived for military member
    • File Form N-426, Request for Certification of Military or Naval Service
    • Attend the naturalization interview and take the Oath of Allegiance in the United States

    Special provisions:

    • Certain naturalization requirements may not apply to current or former US military members. For example, if you served honorably during a designated period of hostilities, you may not have to reside in or be physically present in the US for any length of time before applying for naturalization.

    The processing times for these steps can vary, but the naturalization timeline for military service members is generally shorter than that for civilians. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides regular updates on processing times for naturalization applications, and the current processing times can be checked on the USCIS website.

    It’s important to note that the timeline may be affected by factors such as the volume of applications, the complexity of the case, and any additional evidence or documentation required. Service members seeking to naturalize through military service are encouraged to consult the USCIS website and their military legal assistance office for the most current information and guidance on the naturalization process.

    Changes and challenges in military naturalization

    According to FWD, approximately 5,000 legal permanent residents each year enlist in the US military, contributing to a long history of immigrant service in the armed forces. Over the past 20 years, more than 148,000 immigrants have served and earned citizenship through military service.

    However, the number of service members gaining citizenship has decreased significantly in recent years. FWD estimates that this decline can be attributed to policy changes that made naturalization increasingly difficult for immigrant military recruits. 

    In 2017, former President Trump’s Administration implemented new wait times for the Department of Defense to issue the “honorable service” paperwork required for citizenship applications. Enlistees were ordered to serve at least six months and complete additional background and security checks before beginning the naturalization process. Some immigrant recruits were deployed abroad during the mandatory wait time, making preparing the required paperwork, fingerprints, and interviews significantly more challenging.

    On August 25, 2020, a federal judge ruled that these mandatory wait times were illegal, vacating the policy and ordering the Department of Defense to certify “honorable service” within 30 days of a request. Despite this ruling, the impact of the previous policy changes had already significantly affected the naturalization process for many service members. In response to these challenges, the US military has reinstated a program that allows Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) to apply for accelerated naturalization upon arrival at basic training. 

    Accelerated naturalization for Lawful Permanent Residents in basic training

    The US military has reinstated a program that allows Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) to apply for accelerated naturalization upon arrival at basic training. Those wishing to take advantage of accelerated naturalization must complete the N400 and N426 forms and carry the documents to basic training.

    The program allows recruits to naturalize at the end of basic training. This initiative was revived at a time when the military was having trouble attracting recruits. The program is a partnership between the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security, which allows active duty service members with green cards to become citizens during basic training.

    Under this program, recruits are quickly enrolled in the citizenship system. When they start basic training, an expedited process begins, which includes all required paperwork and testing. By the time recruits finish their training, the process is complete, and they are sworn in as American citizens.

    Additional benefits for immigrants serving in the US military

    Immigrants in the US military and their families are eligible for additional benefits, including immigration benefits, educational opportunities, language support, and healthcare services. 

    Family member benefits

    In addition to the benefits for the service members, their family members may also be eligible for immigration benefits. These benefits include parole in place, overseas naturalization, and citizenship and permanent residence for surviving family members. 

    • Parole in place: The term “parole in place” (PIP) refers to a program that allows certain undocumented family members of US military personnel to stay and work in the United States. Parole in place is considered a lawful immigration status when applying for a Green Card. PIP beneficiaries are eligible for work authorization and do not accrue unlawful presence during the period they receive parole. 
    • Overseas naturalization: If your spouse is a service member stationed outside the country, you may count the period you accompany your spouse overseas as time living in the US. Ordinarily, you must live in the US for a certain number of years before being eligible to apply for citizenship. However, as a service member’s spouse, you can also apply for citizenship while overseas. 
    • Citizenship and permanent residence: According to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), If you are the spouse, child, or parent of a deceased US citizen service member who died during a period of honorable service, you may be eligible for naturalization. You must be a lawful permanent resident and meet the other general naturalization requirements, except for the residence or physical presence requirements in the US.

    The GI Bill for immigrants

    One of the compelling advantages of military service is the educational benefits offered to service members. The military can be a stepping stone to academic success for immigrants, with programs like the GI Bill and initiatives that allow immigrant veterans and their families to pursue higher education. 

    There are two main types of the GI Bill: the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB). The Post-9/11 GI Bill is typically the preferred option for most college-bound students, and it provides benefits such as tuition and fee payments, a monthly housing allowance, and a stipend for books and supplies. The MGIB is available to individuals who enlisted in the US Armed Forces after September 11, 2001, and it also offers education and training benefits.

    In addition to traditional college programs, the GI Bill can be used for other education and training programs, including flight training, foreign exchange programs, apprenticeships, and distance learning. Studying at foreign schools is also covered by the bill, and the GI Bill Comparison Tool can help identify which benefits are available at a particular institution.

    Language support in the military

    Immigrants in the US military have access to various language support resources to assist them in their military service and beyond. Language services include:

    • Language interpretation and document translation: Military service members and their families can receive assistance with language interpretation and document translations through resources such as Military OneSource and the American Immigration Lawyers Association Military Assistance Program.
    • Foreign language recruiting initiative: The US Army provides a Foreign Language Recruiting Initiative that enables applicants whose first language is not English to enlist and receive English language training before attending Basic Combat Training. This initiative allows non-English speakers to receive English language training and pursue military service.

    From language interpretation to specialized recruiting initiatives, the military aims to provide comprehensive language support to ensure that all service members, regardless of their language background, can contribute effectively to the nation’s defense.

    Life insurance and medical benefits

    Active-duty military members are eligible for $50,000 to $400,000 in life insurance. Most military bases also provide medical and dental services, which can be especially beneficial for immigrants who may not have access to affordable healthcare. Active duty service members, including immigrants, can receive health care services at Military Treatment Facilities (MTFs), which are operated by the military and provide various medical services, including primary care, specialty care, and pharmacy services.

    The vital role of immigrant service members in the US military

    The military has historically relied on foreign-born service members, such as highly skilled translators and technical experts, for their vital contributions to the military’s success on the world stage. According to the Immigrant Learning Center, over the last 100 years, more than 760,000 non-citizens have enlisted and gained US citizenship. 

    The military’s recognition of the knowledge, expertise, and diverse backgrounds immigrants bring to the military has created a supportive environment for immigrant service members. This environment has been crucial in integrating immigrant service members into the military and the United States, ensuring they receive the necessary support and resources to effectively contribute to the nation’s defense and American society.

  6. A guide to TN visas for Canadian and Mexican professionals

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    Are you a citizen of Canada or Mexico seeking to work in the United States? A TN visa is an excellent opportunity for professionals from these countries to work in the US in certain approved occupations. 

    The TN visa was created as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and is now governed by the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The TN visa is designed to facilitate the temporary entry of professionals to engage in business activities at a professional level.

    List of approved TN occupations

    The USMCA specifies a list of approved occupations for which individuals may apply for TN visa status. The approved occupations are classified into four groups: General Occupations, Medical Occupations, Scientist Occupations, and Teacher Occupations.

    The purpose of the limited list is to ensure that the TN visa is reserved for professionals working in specific fields covered by the agreement outlined in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). 

    Generally, TN classification requires a person to have a Bachelor’s Degree level of education (US or Canadian BA or BS, Mexican Licenciatura) in the designated field. Occupations marked with an asterisk (*) have special rules and may allow employment for those who do not have a Bachelor’s degree. Speak with a reputable immigration attorney for more details on special considerations. 

    TN approved professions:

    1. Accountant
    2. Actuary (included in Mathematician category)
    3. Agriculturist (including Agronomists
    4. Agronomist (included in Agriculturalist)
    5. Animal Breeder
    6. Animal Scientist
    7. Apiculturist
    8. Architect
    9. Astronomer
    10. Biochemist
    11. Biologist (includes Plant Pathologist)
    12. Chemist
    13. Clinical Laboratory Scientist (included in Medical Technologist category)
    14. College Teacher
    15. College Professor (included in Teacher category)
    16. Computer Systems Analyst*
    17. Dairy Scientist
    18. Dentist
    19. Dietitian
    20. Disaster relief insurance claims adjuster*
    21. Economist
    22. Engineer (including all specializations and disciplines of engineering)
    23. Entomologist
    24. Epidemiologist
    25. Forester
    26. Forestry Specialist (included in Sylviculturalist)
    27. Geneticist
    28. Geochemist
    29. Geologist
    30. Geographer (included in Urban Planner)
    31. Geophysicist (including Oceanographer)
    32. Graphic Designer*
    33. Horticulturist
    34. Hotel Manager*
    35. Industrial Designer*
    36. Interior Designer*
    37. Land Surveyor*
    38. Landscape Architect*
    39. Lawyer
    40. Lecturer (College/University/Seminary level, included in Teacher category)
    41. Librarian*
    42. Management Consultant*
    43. Mathematician (includes Statisticians and Actuaries)
    44. Medical Technician (included in Scientific Technician/Technologist)*
    45. Medical Laboratory Technologist*
    46. Medical Technologist*
    47. Meteorologist
    48. Nutritionist
    49. Occupational Therapist
    50. Oceanographer (included in Geophysicist)
    51. Pharmacist
    52. Pharmacologist
    53. Physical Therapist
    54. Physician (teaching or research only, not practice of medicine)
    55. Physicist
    56. Physiotherapist
    57. Plant Breeder
    58. Plant Pathologist (included in Biologist)
    59. Poultry Scientist
    60. Professor (included in Teacher category)
    61. Psychologist
    62. Range Conservationist
    63. Range Manager
    64. Recreational Therapist
    65. Registered Nurse*
    66. Research Assistant (working in a postsecondary educational institution)
    67. Scientific Technician* (working in agricultural sciences, astronomy, biology, chemistry, engineering, forestry, geology, geophysics, meteorology, or physics)
    68. Scientific Technologist* (working in agricultural sciences, astronomy, biology, chemistry, engineering, forestry, geology, geophysics, meteorology, or physics)
    69. Seminary Teacher
    70. Statistician (included in Mathematician)
    71. Social Worker
    72. Soil Scientist
    73. Sylviculturist (including Forestry Specialist)
    74. Technical Publications Writer*
    75. Teacher (at College, Seminary or University)
    76. Urban Planner (includes Geographer)
    77. University Teacher
    78. Veterinarian
    79. Vocational Counselor
    80. Zoologist

    Understanding TN visa eligibility

    To be eligible for a TN visa, you must meet specific criteria:

    1. Nationality and Proof of Citizenship: 

    You must be a citizen of Canada or Mexico. A passport serves as sufficient proof of citizenship for Canadian citizens. In contrast, Mexican citizens will need a passport and a visa to enter the United States as a TN non-immigrant. This difference in visa requirements is based on the specific regulations and agreements between the US and each country.

    1. Job Offer:

    A crucial requirement for a TN visa is a job offer from a US employer for a full-time or part-time position in an approved TN occupation. The job offer should be presented as a detailed letter from the prospective employer outlining your job role, purpose of employment, length of stay, and remuneration details, which typically encompass the salary, benefits, or any other form of compensation associated with the employment. 

    1. Qualifications and Credentials:

    You must demonstrate that you are a qualified professional in one of the approved specialty occupations. This typically involves providing evidence of your educational qualifications and professional credentials. Evidence of academic qualifications includes transcripts of grades, licenses, certificates, degrees, and previous employment records. Proof of professional credentials includes documentation of diplomas, degrees, and evaluations, as well as proof of licensure to practice a given profession in the US, along with the job offer letter and other documentation.

    The Application Process

    Applying for a TN visa varies slightly for Canadian and Mexican citizens.

    • Canadian Citizens: Canadian citizens can apply for TN non-immigrant status at a US port of entry or have their employer submit the TN application along with Form I-129 to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 

    According to the USCIS website, “a prospective TN employer may file on behalf of a Canadian citizen who is outside of the United States by submitting Form I-129, Petition for Non-immigrant Worker to USCIS. Premium Processing Service is available.

    If USCIS approves Form I-129, you, the prospective worker, may then apply to CBP for admission to the United States as a TN non-immigrant by providing proof of Canadian citizenship and the Form I-129 approval notice to a CBP Officer at certain CBP-designated US ports of entry or at a designated pre-clearance/pre-flight inspection station.”

    • Mexican Citizens: Mexican citizens must submit the necessary paperwork, which may include the job offer letter, proof of educational qualifications, and any other supporting materials, to a US embassy or consulate along with Form DS-160. After completing Form DS-160, Mexican citizens must schedule and attend an interview at a US embassy or consulate in Mexico. 

    Following a successful interview, Mexican citizens will receive a visa number, which is a critical component for the subsequent entry process. With the visa number and all necessary documentation, Mexican citizens can proceed to a designated US port of entry to seek admission as a TN non-immigrant.

    TN visa limitations

    The initial period of stay for TN visa holders is typically granted for up to three years. However, it’s important to note that the TN visa is a non-immigrant visa, and the period of stay is determined by the specific terms of the visa and the duration of the employment offer. TN visa holders must adhere to the authorized period of stay indicated on their Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, which is issued upon entry into the United States. 

    There is no limit to how many times the TN visa can be renewed as long as you continue to satisfy the eligibility requirements. However, as a TN, you must establish “non-immigrant intent” during your interview process. This means that you must show the US immigration authorities that you do not intend to stay in the US permanently and will eventually return to your home country.

    TN visa holders can travel to other countries while holding a valid TN visa. However, it’s essential to ensure the visa remains valid for re-entry into the United States. Additionally, individuals should carry the necessary supporting documentation, such as the job offer letter and evidence of qualifications, when re-entering the US to resume TN visa status.

    TN visa application assistance

    Working with a US immigration lawyer experienced in handling TN visas can be highly beneficial for Canadian and Mexican citizens and US employers navigating the application process. A reputable immigration lawyer can provide valuable guidance, assist in preparing the required documentation, and offer support throughout the entire process, ensuring a smooth and timely application experience.

    If you have any questions or need assistance with the TN visa application process, don’t hesitate to reach out to Stump and Associates, your trusted immigration law firm in Oklahoma City. Our team of experienced immigration attorneys is here to help you achieve your professional goals in the United States.

  7. How Americans act: Social norms for US newcomers

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    Social norms are shared standards of acceptable behavior by groups of people. These norms define appropriate actions within a group or community, guiding human behavior and providing social order and predictability. Understanding America’s social norms is crucial for a newcomer’s successful integration into American society as it fosters positive relationships and promotes effective communication. 

    Social norms shape decisions based on what people think others approve of and expect them to do. In the United States, there are several standard social norms that newcomers should be aware of to navigate social interactions smoothly.

    Mastering the language

    Mastering the English language to understand social norms plays a significant role in adapting to a new culture. According to the US government, the United States has no official language. However, at least 90 percent of the native-born US population speaks English. 

    Learning English is essential for effective communication and integration into American society as it is closely tied to social norms and cultural understanding. Therefore, mastering a language involves learning its vocabulary and grammar and understanding the cultural and social contexts in which the language is used.

    Greetings and personal space

    Different cultures have varying norms regarding greetings, public displays of affection, and personal space. In the United States, standard greetings include both verbal and non-verbal forms. Verbal greetings often involve informal phrases such as “Hi, how are you?” or “Hey, how’s it going?” While it’s common for Americans to ask “How are you?” as a greeting, it is usually a polite exchange rather than a genuine inquiry about one’s well-being. 

    Non-verbal greetings typically involve a firm handshake with eye contact, especially in professional settings. Informal situations may also include hugging, particularly among close friends and family. Additionally, smiling is an important aspect of greetings, as Americans generally smile a lot and appreciate similar warmth in return. Overall, greetings in the United States are often informal and friendly, with first names commonly used in initial introductions.

    In some cultures, public displays of affection are discouraged, while in others, they are more accepted. In the United States, public displays of affection (PDA) are generally accepted, but the extent varies and depends on the cultural context and social situation. There are unspoken boundaries, and engaging in overly explicit or prolonged displays of affection in public is generally considered inappropriate.

    In the United States, personal space is highly valued, and individuals generally prefer more personal space compared to other cultures. The average personal space in the US starts at about four feet, while in other countries, it is usually around two feet or less. Personal space is the region surrounding a person that they regard as psychologically theirs, and most people feel discomfort, anger, or anxiety when their personal space is encroached upon. 

    Here are some guidelines on personal space in the United States:

    • When talking with others, keeping a distance of at least four feet is important to respect personal space.
    • In crowded rooms, individuals should be aware of personal space boundaries and try to keep at least two feet of personal space between themselves and others.
    • In public settings, leaving an extra seat between individuals in an auditorium or seated area is common if space is available, and it is acceptable to sit next to someone if the room is crowded.
    • When accidentally touching someone or briefly blocking their view, it is polite to say, “Excuse me.”
    • Waiting in line and not cutting in front of others or pushing is a common practice.

    Overall, respecting personal space is an essential aspect of social interaction in the United States, and being mindful of these guidelines can help individuals navigate social situations effectively.

    Punctuality and time management

    Punctuality is highly valued in American culture. Timeliness is considered one of the most important American values, and being on time is associated with professionalism, dependability, and respect for others’ time. If you have an appointment or a meeting, try arriving a few minutes early. If you anticipate arriving late, it’s advisable to let others know beforehand. 

    In business and academic settings, punctuality remains an expectation for professionals and students, and being on time is essential for establishing a good reputation and gaining the trust of others. While lateness may be acceptable in some social contexts, such as large parties or social gatherings, punctuality is generally valued, especially in more intimate or professional settings. Newcomers may benefit from familiarizing themselves with American cultural norms around punctuality and time management to navigate social and professional interactions effectively.

    Work Ethic

    Americans generally appreciate a strong work ethic. Being punctual, diligent, and taking initiative in the workplace is often highly regarded. The American work ethic is deeply rooted in the culture, emphasizing the value of hard work, dedication, and productivity. Americans value a strong work ethic, often working longer hours and taking fewer vacations than other countries. 

    Americans often believe that putting effort and dedication to one’s work is directly related to personal achievements. Productivity and achievement are highly regarded in American society, and individuals are often evaluated based on their accomplishments and work ethic.

    Adapting to these cultural norms facilitates smoother professional interactions and helps build positive relationships with American colleagues and employers. Demonstrating a strong work ethic and a commitment to productivity contributes to gaining the trust and respect of others in the American workplace. 

    Respect for diversity 

    The United States is known for its cultural diversity. People come from various ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds. Americans generally embrace cultural differences and appreciate individuals who celebrate their heritage. It’s essential to be open-minded and respectful towards people from various backgrounds.

    Respect for diversity is important due to the country’s rich history of immigration and the resulting multicultural society. Understanding and valuing diversity is essential for fostering inclusivity, promoting equality, and creating a sense of belonging for individuals from various cultural backgrounds. Embracing diversity allows for recognizing and appreciating different perspectives, experiences, and traditions, contributing to a more vibrant and enriched society.

    Informality and equality

    American culture takes pride in informality, stemming from the fundamental value of equality. This value is based on the ideal written in the US Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal.” Americans tend to disregard social status in everyday interactions and emphasize equality. The notion of equality in the United States leads Americans to be relatively informal in their behavior and relationships with other people. 

    While Americans may make distinctions based on factors such as gender, age, wealth, or social position, these distinctions are often acknowledged in subtle ways, and the emphasis on equality leads to a relatively informal approach to behavior and relationships. Strangers are often addressed by their first names, and the American dress style is generally casual and relaxed. 

    Casual clothing is widely accepted in many settings, although it can vary depending on the region and occasion. Business casual or formal attire may be expected in more formal settings or professional environments. This informality does not imply a lack of respect but reflects the cultural shift toward equality among social classes. 

    Holidays and celebrations

    Newcomers to the United States have brought diverse, rich traditions to American holidays, including Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas, and many other celebrations. Immigrant families have also brought unique twists to the traditional Thanksgiving table, reinterpreting the classic centerpiece turkey in various ways. 

    In American culture, holidays and celebrations play a significant role in reflecting the country’s history, commemorating significant events, and expressing the nation’s identity. The United States recognizes various holidays and celebratory days, each with special connotations and cultural significance. According to Statista, “Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, and Christmas are the most popular holidays in the United States. Other favorite holidays among Americans, including both national and religious events, are Father’s Day, Veterans Day, and Mother’s Day.”

    Understanding and participating in American holidays and celebrations can provide newcomers with opportunities to share their own cultural traditions, learn about American customs, and engage in cross-cultural exchanges, contributing to a more inclusive and diverse society.

    Cultural rituals for coming of age and marriage

    In American culture, cultural rituals for coming of age and marriage hold significant importance as they reflect diverse communities’ values, traditions, and heritage. These rituals serve as rites of passage, marking the transition from one life stage to another and symbolizing the individual’s growth, maturity, and new responsibilities. 

    In the United States, there are various cultural rituals and ceremonies for coming of age and marriage. Some of these traditions include:

    1. Sweet 16: In the United States, the “Sweet 16” celebration marks a girl’s 16th birthday and is often celebrated with a party or special event. Less rooted in tradition, it is a significant milestone in a young woman’s life, symbolizing the transition from childhood to young adulthood.
    2. Quinceañera: This tradition is particularly significant in Latin American communities, where young girls celebrate their Quinceañera when they turn 15 years old. The celebration typically begins with a Catholic mass, where the girl renews her baptismal vows and solidifies her commitment to her family and faith. Following the mass, a reception is held where friends and family eat and dance.
    3. Bar and Bat Mitzvah: In the Jewish tradition, boys celebrate their Bar Mitzvah at age 13, and girls celebrate their Bat Mitzvah at age 12. These ceremonies mark the transition to adulthood and the assumption of religious responsibilities.
    4. Wedding Traditions: American wedding traditions vary widely, but some common elements include the exchange of vows, the giving of rings, and the celebration with family and friends. Wedding ceremonies often reflect the cultural and religious backgrounds of the couple and their families.

    By participating in these rituals, newcomers can gain a deeper understanding of American cultural values, establish connections with individuals from diverse backgrounds, and contribute to the rich tapestry of American society.

    Embracing cultural differences

    Newcomers may encounter various cultural quirks in the United States, such as the experience of spray cheese, large supermarkets, venti coffees, and the prevalence of air conditioning turned down to “cool.” Americans often eat on the go, love their flags, and have diverse flavor varieties for products in grocery stores. Adapting to a new culture also involves embracing what’s different, unique, and strange with an open mind and a willingness to learn and try new things. 

    Don’t be afraid of questions. People fear what they don’t understand. Be open to questions, and know you are helping change people’s minds about you and your culture. In return, ask questions about American customs and things you don’t understand. Create an open dialogue with friends and neighbors. Patience is key—Americans can be unfamiliar with the wider world around them, but remember that you are putting a face to what it means to be an immigrant.

    By understanding and embracing common US social norms, immigrants can navigate social interactions more effectively and integrate into American society while preserving their cultural identity. Remember, adapting to a new culture may present challenges, but with determination and an open heart, it can also be a rewarding and enriching experience.

  8. From culture shock to cultural awareness: Tips for adapting to a new culture

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    Adapting to a new culture can be a challenging but rewarding experience. Newcomers to the United States face unique challenges, such as language barriers, cultural differences, and discrimination. However, with the proper support and determination, you can overcome any obstacles that come your way. 

    Successfully adapting to American culture depends on striking a balance between cherishing your cultural roots and respecting the values and traditions of your new country. In this article, we’ll explore how you can embrace your cultural heritage while thriving in your new environment. We’ll provide tips on how to build up a support network, approach new experiences with an open mind, and navigate cultural differences. 

    Whether you’re moving for work, study, or personal reasons, adapting to a new culture takes time and effort. But with patience, an open mind, and a willingness to learn and adapt, you can build a new life and make the most of your experience living in the United States.

    Embrace your cultural heritage while respecting American culture

    When adapting to a new country, it’s important to embrace your cultural heritage while respecting the host culture. This can be done by sharing your cultural traditions with others, attending cultural events, and participating in multicultural experiences. Sharing your cultural traditions with others promotes mutual respect and creates a vibrant, inclusive community. You can organize events or gatherings to introduce your customs, cuisine, and festivities to your new friends, neighbors, and colleagues. This exchange not only fosters understanding but also allows you to build meaningful relationships with people from diverse backgrounds. 

    In addition, engage with the local community by attending cultural events, festivals, and gatherings, which can provide invaluable insights into the customs and traditions of your host country. This includes learning about the country’s history, traditions, and customs, as well as the language. The more you know about the local culture, the better equipped you will be to understand and navigate it. Familiarizing yourself with American holidays and participating in local celebrations can help you to connect with your community.

    It’s important to note that embracing your cultural heritage while respecting the host culture is not always easy. It can be challenging to balance your cultural identity with the customs and traditions of the host country. However, taking the time to learn with an open mind can go a long way in adapting to your new life while still maintaining a connection to your cultural heritage. If you are struggling to balance your cultural identity with adapting to the new culture, talk to a trusted friend, family member, or counselor. They can offer support and advice.

    Be aware of the difference between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation. Cultural appreciation involves learning about and respecting another culture, while cultural appropriation involves taking elements of another culture without understanding or respecting their significance. To avoid cultural appropriation, it’s important to learn about the cultural significance of the practices or traditions you are interested in and to avoid misusing them. Seek guidance when in doubt, and approach situations with sensitivity and empathy.

    Problem-solving in multicultural environments

    Problem-solving skills are an essential part of adapting to a new culture. Successfully resolving conflicts or challenges in multicultural settings showcases an ability to navigate uncomfortable situations while considering everyone’s point of view. Misunderstandings can occur, and reactions have the potential to hinder a positive work environment, as we may not even be aware that we have cultural values or assumptions that are different from others. Having the ability to consider all sides of the issue can help you stand out in the job market and advance your career.

    Many businesses are looking for employees who can work effectively with people from different cultures, and having the ability to adapt and problem-solve in multicultural environments is highly valued. If work opportunities bring you to the United States, building positive relationships with people from diverse backgrounds and navigating cultural differences can help you build a successful career and fast-track how you adapt to your new home. 

    Problem-solving skills are an essential skill set for adapting to a new culture because they involve increasing self-awareness, developing social skills and behaviors around diversity, and gaining the ability to advocate for others. By being open-minded, respectful, and willing to learn, you can build a strong support network to make your time in America more enjoyable and fulfilling.

    Build a support network

    Building a support network in your new environment is crucial for a smooth transition as a newcomer to America. Connect with local immigrant organizations, attend cultural events, and seek out online communities that support immigrants. These networks can provide valuable advice, resources, and a sense of belonging. Contact friends or family members who have lived in or visited the US. They may be able to put you in touch with people they know who live there or provide you with helpful tips and advice.

    Joining local clubs and organizations is also a great way to meet new people who share your interests. You can find groups for everything from sports and hobbies to professional networking and volunteering. Introducing yourself to your neighbors can also help build a support network in your new community. You can start by saying hello and asking them about the area and any recommendations for things to do or places to go. 

    Social media is also a powerful tool for meeting new people. Join Facebook groups dedicated to your new city, and attend expat meet-ups in your area. LinkedIn, a social networking platform for professionals, can also help to expand your network, and it’s the host of expat community groups, such as InterNations.

    Master the language and understand social norms

    Mastering the language and familiarizing yourself with American values plays a big part in adapting to a new culture. Take language classes, watch local TV shows, and read newspapers to improve your language skills. You can also join conversation clubs and immerse yourself in English-speaking environments. Proficiency in English will not only help you immensely in professional and legal contexts but will also make day-to-day interactions much more manageable.

    Social norms help to define how people should act, what we believe others will do, and what we think others approve of and expect us to do. It plays a significant role in understanding local customs, traditions, and etiquette. Observe how people interact with each other to learn about the social norms and American customs. For example, a handshake is a common greeting when meeting someone for the first time or in professional settings. A firm shake and maintaining eye contact is a sign of confidence and respect in American culture and conveys trust and open communication. Additionally, recognize that personal space boundaries may differ from what you’re accustomed to in your home country. Respecting these boundaries is vital to making others feel comfortable and at ease.

    In the workplace, punctuality is a social norm that shows respect for others’ time and is highly valued in American workplaces. Arriving on time or early sets a positive tone. Regarding the social standards of dress codes, dressing appropriately conveys professionalism and respect for the company’s culture. Observe the dress code and take cues from your colleagues. In addition, open and direct communication is standard in American workplaces. Be clear and concise in your communication, and don’t hesitate to ask questions or seek clarification.

    Be patient 

    Adapting to a new culture and a new country is hard. Give yourself time to acclimate to the differences. While this may be easier said than done, try to avoid comparing your new life to your old one, but rather appreciate what’s unique. You may experience a period of culture shock and homesickness, but over time, as you become more accustomed to your surroundings, you will feel less out of place. 

    Start small by embracing the local American cuisine and dining customs. Food is often a reflection of values and customs. It’s how a culture expresses identity, celebrates milestones, creates connections, establishes community, and explores creativity. Each day, try something new when you’re grocery shopping or eating out.

    You could also try public transportation as a small step. Successfully using public transportation systems and understanding the unwritten rules in public areas (like queues or pedestrian etiquette) is a sign of adaptability and cultural awareness. It’s also a great way to watch how Americans interact in a public setting and provide you with the opportunity to become familiar with navigating your new city or town. 

    Adapting to a new environment takes time and effort. Immerse yourself in the new food, language, and the American people. In a few months, you’ll be amazed at how far you’ve come and how less strange your new country has become. Reach out to us if you have any questions about extending your stay in the United States and becoming an American citizen.

  9. Navigating cultural differences in an American job interview

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    Job interviews can be a daunting experience for anyone, but for non-American job candidates, cultural differences can add an extra layer of complexity. These differences can impact how nonverbal cues are interpreted, how individual accomplishments are discussed, and how the advantages of hiring a non-American job candidate are highlighted.

    However, being aware of cultural differences can be advantageous as a job candidate. Your unique skills and experiences set you apart from other candidates, especially for American companies operating globally or aiming to do so in the future. Non-American employees can seamlessly navigate cultural differences and work effectively with people from diverse backgrounds, bringing insights and perspectives into various target demographics to ultimately benefit the company. 

    Tips for interpreting nonverbal cues in American job interviews

    Nonverbal communication is a crucial aspect of any job interview, and cultural differences can impact how nonverbal cues are interpreted. For instance, in some cultures, direct eye contact is seen as a sign of respect and attentiveness, while in others, it can be seen as confrontational or disrespectful. Similarly, hand gestures and body language can have different meanings in different cultures. It is essential to be aware of these differences and to adjust your nonverbal communication accordingly.

    In American culture, direct eye contact is preferred during conversations. It is important to maintain natural and steady eye contact during the interview to show confidence and interest in what the interviewer is saying. Positive body language is also essential during a job interview. If greeting the interviewer during an in-person interview, offer a firm handshake and a smile. While seated, sit up straight and avoid crossing your arms, as these actions can make you look uninterested and defiant. 

    How you dress for the interview also can make a good first impression, even in video interviews. Choose professional attire, and when in doubt of the color, choose neutral tones. Speak clearly and confidently during the interview to show you are a strong candidate for the job. In American culture, punctuality is highly valued. Arrive on time for the interview to make a good impression. 

    Research has shown that interviewers’ perceptions of and hiring decisions about interviewees can be affected by the similarity/dissimilarity of interviewers’ and interviewees’ nonverbal behaviors exhibited during an intercultural hiring interview. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the interviewer’s nonverbal cues and to adjust your nonverbal behavior accordingly.

    Overcoming cultural assumptions in American job interviews

    During American job interviews, interviewers may unwittingly make assumptions based on their own cultural values and expectations, which can affect how they interpret the interviewee’s skills and experience. This can lead to misconceptions and poor judgments. To overcome this challenge, it is important to be aware of cultural assumptions and to address them directly. For example, if an interviewer assumes that an immigrant job candidate may not be fluent in English, the candidate can address this directly by highlighting their language skills and experience communicating in English.

    Other ways to combat cultural assumptions during American job interviews include:

    1. Using examples to illustrate experience and skills: This can help to overcome cultural assumptions and show the interviewer that you are a strong candidate for the job.
    2. Developing cultural agility: Cultural agility will help non-American job candidates recognize when they are misperceiving someone else or are being misperceived, and course correct if necessary. For instance, research the culture of the country they are interviewing in to learn the best ways to communicate with the hiring manager to build a positive rapport, gain trust, and appear credible.
    3. Being aware of nonverbal cues: Watch the interviewer’s posture, facial expressions and gestures. This can help you to avoid misunderstandings based on your assumptions and give you more confidence in your interactions.
    4. Asking questions: Non-American job candidates can ask questions during the job interview to clarify any cultural assumptions that the interviewer may have. 

    Highlighting the advantages of hiring a non-American job candidate

    Immigrant job candidates bring unique skills and experiences to the workplace, and it is essential to highlight these advantages during a job interview. For example, a non-American job candidate may have experience working in diverse and multicultural environments, which can be an asset in today’s global economy. Similarly, you may have language skills valuable in communicating with clients or customers from different backgrounds. 

    By highlighting these advantages, you can show the interviewer what makes you a valuable asset to the company. Examples of benefits include:

    • Improving company diversity and promoting cultural exchange within the workforce, leading to increased creativity, improved problem-solving, and enhanced collaboration. 
    • Non-American candidates can fill skill gaps in the company, as they may have unique skills and experiences that are not available in the American job market. 
    • Non-Americans may have a global perspective that can benefit the company in today’s global economy and bring insights to targeting a global audience.

    Preparing for an American job interview

    American hiring managers generally look for candidates with the skills and experience necessary to perform the job effectively. They also look for candidates who are a good fit for the company culture and have a positive attitude. During the interview, they may ask questions about your experience, skills, and accomplishments to assess their qualifications for the job. Research the company and its culture to prepare for an American job interview. This research can help you understand what the company values and what they are looking for in a job candidate. 

    Practice interviewing with your friends and family to get comfortable with the interview process. Practicing can also help you identify areas where you may need to improve. Be prepared to talk about your experience and how it relates to the job you are applying for. You can show how your expertise can benefit the company by highlighting your skills and accomplishments. 

    In some cultures, speaking about your individual contributions to business accomplishments may be taboo, but in the United States, individualism is an important part of the culture. If you’re uncomfortable talking about your achievements during an interview, these steps might help:

    1. Practice talking about accomplishments: Talk about your achievements with friends or family to get comfortable with the process. 
    2. Use examples to illustrate accomplishments: Talk about a successful project and your role in its completion. This can help to overcome cultural discomfort and show the interviewer that you are a strong candidate for the job.
    3. Be proud of your accomplishments: In the United States, job candidates are encouraged to be proud of their work and share their achievements with the interviewer. This can show the interviewer what differentiates you from other job candidates vying for the same position.

    10 American job interview resources

    Several resources are available to non-American job candidates to help prepare for American job interviews. These include:

    • Indeed.com: Indeed.com provides resources for job seekers, including interview tips and sample interview questions. They also offer a company culture fit assessment to help job candidates understand what companies are looking for in a job candidate.
    • Forbes: Forbes offers articles and resources for job seekers, including tips for preparing for job interviews and advice for new immigrants entering the workforce.
    • SHRM: The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) offers a variety of resources for job seekers, including job postings, career advice, and information on workplace culture. 
    • LinkedIn: LinkedIn is a professional networking site that can provide valuable insights into American workplace culture. Job seekers can use LinkedIn to research companies, connect with professionals in the industry, and learn about job opportunities.
    • NCDA: The National Career Development Association (NCDA) offers a variety of resources for job seekers, including career planning tools, job search advice, and information on workplace culture. The NCDA website also links to career development resources like job boards and career counseling services.
    • Careers.org: Careers.org is a source for employment, job search, and career education information worldwide. It includes detailed information about over 1000 occupations, including wages, skills, and links to corresponding college programs and career, job, and educational resources for states, cities, and counties in the United States, as well as Canadian Provinces and other countries.
    • Gladeo.org: Gladeo.org is a career exploration website that provides information on various careers, including job descriptions, salary information, and educational requirements. The site also includes videos of professionals discussing their careers and offering advice to job seekers.

    While job interviews can be challenging for anyone, bringing confidence, a positive attitude, and the ability to demonstrate your career accomplishments can help make you a strong candidate and stand out from the crowd. Good luck in your career search! If you have questions about employment-based visas, we’re happy to help

  10. What to do if you are placed in an ICE detention center

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    Being placed in an ICE detention center can be a frightening and overwhelming experience, especially for those unfamiliar with the US immigration system. The purpose of being held in a detention center is to secure the presence of non-citizens for immigration proceedings or removal from the United States. Individuals apprehended by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are normally placed in removal proceedings and may be detained in one of the more than 200 jails and detention centers that make up ICE’s detention system. 

    However, it is important to remember that you have rights and resources available to you. In this article, we will discuss what you should do if you are placed in a detention center, including the latest updates to ICE priority, the rights of detainees, and the rules that detainees should be aware of.

    Latest updates to ICE priority

    Understanding the priorities of Immigration and Customs Enforcement is the first step in assessing your situation if you are at risk of detention. By being aware of these priorities, you can better determine why you may have been detained and the potential pathways for your release. Reports from 2022 show that ICE conducted nearly 1,430,000 immigration arrests, 67% of which were non-citizens without criminal convictions. Daily in 2022, about 22,600 were detained, down from an average high of 50,200 daily in 2019. However, efforts have been made in 2023 to shift ICE priorities. 

    As of the writing of this article, ICE has officially reinstated the Mayorkas Enforcement Priorities and Doyle Memo. This means that ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers will continue focusing their priorities on removable fugitive non-citizens, specifically those with criminal convictions. However, new data analysis reveals that ICE’s enforcement activities contradicted the Biden administration’s prioritization guidelines. For instance, ICE continued to pursue immigrants who aren’t security risks for deportation, upholding the ICE priorities of former US President Donald Trump’s administration.

    It’s essential to keep in mind that immigration policies and priorities can change, so staying informed about the latest updates is crucial. Monitor news sources, consult immigration attorneys, or contact immigrant advocacy organizations for information on the current state of immigration enforcement. The landscape may shift, and new avenues for relief or release may become available.

    Factors that affect the likelihood of detention by ICE

    The likelihood of a non-citizen being detained by ICE depends on various factors, including their immigration status, criminal history, and the discretion of ICE officers. 

    Some reasons include:

    1. Committing a crime: If a non-citizen commits a crime, they may be detained by ICE. This includes both violent and non-violent crimes.
    2. Arriving at the border: Non-citizens who arrive without proper documentation may be detained by ICE. This includes those who are seeking asylum.
    3. Discretionary detention: ICE may exercise its discretion to detain a non-citizen who is not subject to mandatory detention or is not deemed to be a public safety or flight risk.
    4. Pending deportation: The non-citizen has received an outstanding removal or deportation order on record or has missed prior hearing dates in Immigration Court.

    Rights of detainees

    One of the most vital aspects of your journey through immigration detention is understanding and asserting your rights. These rights protect your dignity, ensure fair treatment, and safeguard your access to due process. The right to remain silent is a powerful tool during interrogations. Use it wisely when questioned by immigration authorities. Be respectful but firm in asserting your right to remain silent, especially if you fear that your answers could be self-incriminating.

    The right to an attorney is fundamental. While immigration authorities are not obligated to provide you with an attorney, you should seek legal representation as soon as possible. An experienced immigration lawyer can help you navigate the complex immigration system, build a strong defense, and advocate for your release.

    Due process is a cornerstone of the US legal system, and it applies to immigration proceedings as well. This means you have the right to a fair and timely hearing before an immigration judge. Including the opportunity to present your case, submit evidence, and argue for your release or relief from deportation.

    As a detainee, you have certain rights that are protected by law. These rights include:

    • The right to remain silent: You have the right to refuse to answer any questions from ICE or other law enforcement officials. You can say, “I want to remain silent,” or “I want to speak to a lawyer.”
    • The right to an attorney: You have the right to hire an attorney to represent you in your immigration case. 
    • The right to medical care: You have the right to receive medical care if you are sick or injured while in detention.
    • The right to religious practice: You have the right to practice your religion while in detention.
    • The right to be free from abuse and mistreatment: You have the right to be treated with dignity and respect while in detention. If you are mistreated or abused by detention staff, you should report the incident immediately.

    ICE detention center rules

    Detention centers have strict rules and regulations that detainees must adhere to. Understanding and complying with these rules is essential for your well-being and can influence your overall experience in custody. Do not possess or smuggle contraband into the detention center. Prohibited items like weapons, drugs, or unauthorized communication devices can have severe consequences, including extended detention or additional charges.

    Maintaining respect for detention center staff and fellow detainees is critical. Avoid confrontations or aggressive behavior, which can lead to disciplinary actions and negatively impact your legal case. Following daily schedules for meals, recreation, and medical appointments is essential. Compliance with schedules demonstrates your commitment to cooperating with detention center authorities and immigration proceedings.

    Participate actively in your legal proceedings. Attend all immigration court hearings and meetings with your attorney. Your active involvement is crucial for building a strong case for your release or relief from deportation. If you encounter problems with staff, other detainees, or your living conditions, report them promptly to detention center authorities. Your safety and well-being should be a top priority, and reporting issues can help address concerns effectively.

    What to expect while detained

    Understanding what to expect while detained can help you mentally and emotionally prepare for the challenges ahead. Detention centers operate within specific guidelines, but your individual experience may vary based on the facility, your personal circumstances, and the current immigration policies.

    You can anticipate limited freedom of movement within the detention center. Daily routines, confinement to specific areas, and restricted access to the outside world are common aspects of detention life. However, building a social support network within the detention center can provide emotional and psychological relief. Fellow detainees with similar experiences can offer companionship and understanding during this challenging time.

    Your legal proceedings will be a central focus during your time in detention. Be prepared for hearings, meetings with immigration authorities, and consultations with your attorney. These are significant steps in your journey to resolve your immigration status. Take advantage of the legal resources available to you. Consult an attorney to understand your case and the potential options for release or relief. Knowledge is power, and your attorney can guide you through the legal process.

    Depending on the detention center’s policies, you may have the opportunity for visitation from friends and family. Maintaining connections with your loved ones can provide emotional support and a sense of connection to the outside world.

    Visiting or locating someone in an ICE detention center

    Different detention centers have different visitation policies. Commonly, detained immigrants are allowed a limited number of visitors during visiting hours on certain days of the week. Some detention centers allow “contact visits,” where you are permitted to meet with the detained person in the same room and have limited physical contact with them, such as hugging or holding hands. However, these types of visits are rare. More often, visitors are permitted only “non-contact” visits in which they must talk through plexiglass windows or by videophone. 

    To find out more about a detention center’s visitation policy and hours, you can search the ICE website for the detention facility you would like to visit. It is important to note that detention centers generally place further restrictions on visitation for detained immigrants in administrative segregation. Contact visits are usually conducted inside the unit in a designated visiting area or outside the main building, within the fenced perimeter.

    Here are some things to know about locating and visiting someone in an ICE detention center:

    1. Use the Online Detainee Locator System: The Online Detainee Locator System is the best way to locate someone who ICE has detained. This system can be accessed 24 hours a day and will provide information about the facility where the person is being held.
    2. Contact an ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) field office: If you cannot find the person you are looking for through the online system, you can contact an ICE ERO field office for assistance.
    3. Contact the detention facility directly: If you know the facility where the person is being held, you can contact the facility directly for information about visiting and contacting the person.
    4. Know the person’s A-number: When contacting ICE or the detention facility, it is helpful to have the person’s A-number, a unique identifier assigned to each non-citizen by the Department of Homeland Security.
    5. Follow the facility’s rules for visiting: Each detention facility has its own rules for visiting, so it is important to check with the facility before visiting. Some facilities require visitors to make an appointment in advance, while others allow walk-in visits.
    6. Bring identification: When visiting someone in a detention center, you will need to bring identification, such as a driver’s license or passport.

    How to get released from an ICE detention center

    Being detained at an ICE detention center does not necessarily mean immediate deportation. If your continued detention is not ruled mandatory, you may be qualified for release if ICE assesses that you are not a public safety or flight risk. According to the American Immigration Council, following this assessment, you may be eligible for one of the following options:

    • ICE may release an individual on their own recognizance, meaning that they sign paperwork committing to appear for scheduled immigration court hearings;
    • ICE may release an individual on Orders of Supervision (OSUP). OSUPs contain additional conditions of release, such as electronic monitoring (i.e., wearing a GPS ankle monitor), periodically reporting to an ICE officer in person or by telephone, and travel restrictions. Conditions of supervision may involve ICE’s Intensive Supervised Appearance Program (ISAP). These conditions, used separately or in conjunction with one another, and are collectively referred to as “alternatives to detention” (ATD);
    • ICE may require someone to post a monetary bond (similar to bail in the criminal context) to secure release. The immigration laws require a minimum bond of $1,500, but bond amounts can be as high as tens of thousands of US dollars or
    • ICE may release an individual on parole, which is permission to reside in the United States for a finite period of time. ICE also may place a parolee on an OSUP, requiring them to meet certain conditions to remain on parole.

    If ICE denies the request for release, the individual may ask an immigration judge to order either release or a reduction of the bond amount. This request may be made orally, in writing, or, at the immigration court’s discretion, by telephone. The likelihood of non-citizens being released from detention increases when they have legal representation. An attorney can help to argue for release on bond or on their own recognizance or can help to challenge the basis for detention. Under an “order of recognizance,” an individual is released with reporting requirements while in deportation proceedings and awaiting a final decision. 

    Family or community support can also help secure release from detention. Family members or community organizations can provide housing, transportation, and other support that may be necessary for release. In some cases, organizations may purchase bus tickets for released detainees to travel to a city where they have family or friends who can receive them. 

    It is important to note that eligibility requirements for release on recognizance may vary depending on the individual’s circumstances and the discretion of ICE officials. Additionally, the process of requesting release from ICE detention can be complex and challenging and may require the assistance of an attorney or community organization. To obtain release from an ICE detention facility, it is important to understand the options available and seek appropriate legal and community support.