Displaying items by tag: immigration

A Notario or Immigration Consultant is not an Attorney

Question: I found a person who called himself a ‘notario’ and said he would do the work I needed for ½ the cost of an attorney. He also said I did not need a Waiver. Should I hire him?


Answer:  Your immigration situation and your immigration case is critcally important. Is it worth to save some money to hire somebody who is not even a lawyer? A notario, or notary public, is not a lawyer and cannot practice law in the United States. Confusion about what a notary public can do in the US is common for many immigrants, however, because in some other countries, notaries can act as attorneys. An Immigration Consultant similarly is not an attorney.

Many notary publics take advantage of immigrants, leading them to believe that a notary can advise them on the law. Do not hire a notary to handle your immigration matter -- for that you need a lawyer. 

Generally, it is not a good idea to hire a notario or immigration consultant. Even well meaning notarios or Immigration Consultants can seriously harm your immigration case. If the notario doesn't have sufficient knowledge about immigration law, he or she may file documents incorrectly and permanently harm your case. Some notarios may take your money without ever even intending to file your paperwork. If you receive incompetent immigration help, your application may be delayed, you may incur unnecessary fees, and you could even face removal proceedings. If you've been the victim of immigration fraud, visit the American Bar Association's resources for victims of notario fraud for information about where to get help. 


The Immigration Consultant and/or Notario are not licensed by any governmental organization as are attorneys. Similarly, attorneys have passed the Bar and are licensed by the State to give legal advice and to best help your case. Can you imagine if you are directed by a legal consultant or notario to leave the U.S. for Consulate Processing and find out it is denied as you needed a Waiver and are barred for years from coming into the U.S.? These type of gross errors would most likely not occur with a seasoned immigration attorney.


Question: Well, who legally can represent me?


Answer: While immigrants aren't required to be represented, immigration law can be very complicated so it's a good idea to obtain competent legal advice before submitting any paperwork to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). But who should you consult with? There are two main categories of professionals that can legally help with your immigration case: Attorneys who are licensed to practice law in your state, and
Accredited representatives of organizations recognized by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). Neither of these categories would be a Notario or Legal Consultant.

In other words, make certain that you properly have done your research when you are hiring somebody to help you with your immigration and make sure he or she is a qualified attorney.

Permanent Residence Still Possible After Petitioner’s Death

By Attorneys Devin Connolly & Nancy E. Miller

The death of a close family member is obviously a very difficult time in a person’s life. This is even more true when the death results in both the loss of a beloved family member and the loss of the potential to become a permanent resident status in the U.S. (Green card).  Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), an approved visa petition is automatically revoked when the petitioner dies before the beneficiary is issued a green card.  The law is harsh but not absolute.  A person may still be able to get their green card despite the petitioner’s death. 

Section 204(l) of the INA allows people to still be granted their green cards if they are able to demonstrate that they meet certain eligibility criteria as stated in the INA.  In order to qualify under Section 204(l) of the INA, the immigrant beneficiary must have resided in the United States at the time of the petitioner’s death and must continue to reside in the U.S.  Prior to this important change, only certain widows and widowers who were petitioned by their U.S. citizen spouse were granted the opportunity to obtain permanent resident status after the death of the petitioner.  

The first issue that must be resolved surrounds the definition of “residence.”  As stated above, the beneficiary of the visa petition must actually reside in the U.S. at the time of their family member’s death.  They will not be eligible under INA 204(l) simply by being physically present in the U.S. on the exact day that their relative passed away.  Rather, it is required that they maintained a residence in the U.S. at the time of the petitioner’s death.  However, it is not required that they were physically present in the U.S. on the date of death.  Thus, an immigrant beneficiary may still be eligible for adjustment of status if they were actually abroad when the petitioner died, so long as they can establish that they were actually residing in the U.S. at the time of the petitioner’s death.  It is also important to note that the law does not require that they have lawful status in the U.S. at the time of death.  

There are also other requirements that must be established in addition to residence.  These including demonstrating that the beneficiary deserves a favorable exercise of discretion and that they have an acceptable substitute sponsor.  Finally, Section 204(l) of the INA may also provide immigration benefits for more people than just the beneficiary named on the petition.  It may also allow the named beneficiary’s spouse and children to be granted permanent resident status. 

In some instances, the deceased family member was also the only or primary qualifying relative for a needed waiver of a ground of inadmissibility.  Section 204(l) allows the beneficiary to continue to pursue the waiver with the deceased family member as the qualifying relative. 

Section 204(l) of the INA is clearly greatly beneficial to many people.  Unfortunately, though, not everyone qualifies.  For those beneficiaries who are not eligible to apply for adjustment of status under INA 204(l), they still have the opportunity to apply for “Humanitarian Reinstatement.”  

As stated earlier, the underlying petition is automatically revoked upon the death of the petitioner.  However, “Humanitarian Reinstatement” provides hope for those family members living abroad that waited patiently for their immigrant visa petition to become current.  A request for “Humanitarian Reinstatement” is a request that the petition be reinstated on humanitarian grounds.  If the request is granted, the beneficiary, and potentially his or her spouse and children, will be permitted to continue with the Immigrant Visa process and reunite with their remaining family members in the United States.  

The United States Department of State’s Foreign Affairs Manual provides a list of factors the USCIS should consider in evaluating requests for reinstatements.  These factors include, but are not limited to, whether there will be a disruption of an established family unit; any potential hardship to U.S. citizen or lawful permanent residents; if the beneficiary is elderly, has strong family ties to the U.S., or is in poor health with no home to go to, and whether there was an undue delay in the processing of the petition. 

The death of a loved one can devastate a family.  And, for some prospective immigrants, the death may also threaten to further tear apart the family unit.  But it is important to remember that immigrating to the U.S. may still be possible despite the death of your close family member.  Anyone who has lost a petitioning family member prior to obtaining their green card should consult a knowledgeable and experienced immigration attorney to find out whether they can still obtain lawful permanent residence.


Is USCIS sitting on your immigration petition? Sue the @#$%^&* with a mandamus action

You have filed your immigration petition for your beautiful beloved with USCIS, but USCIS has been sitting on it. Rival suitors are knocking at your beloved’s door, saying “Your balikbayan lover is a fake. He has not filed a petition for you. It has been a year and you still have no news about it. Let us go out and have fun.”

Your beloved sends you the above Facebook message. What are you going to do? You are getting desperate. You cannot control the events happening abroad. What if your beloved succumbs to the temptation to go out with other suitors. What if ….. Patay kang bata ka

Here is what you can do. First, follow up the petition with USCIS. Second, make an appointment on InfoPass to talk to an immigration officer in person. Write to your U.S. Senator or congressman to help find out the status of your petition? (Unfortunately in Hawaii, not one of them is a Republican, so your guess is as good as mine as to what weight they carry). All that USCIS says is that your petition is under process. 

There is a book called “Sue the Bastards” by Gerard P. Fox. It analyzes the pros and cons of suing those who do you harm. After reading it, you feel like Hamlet – “To be or not to be.” (To sue or not to sue). If you really love your so-called “beloved” (wife or fiancée) and want to protect your interest, damn the cost and the problems of suing, just sue the USCIS for sitting on your immigration petition by using a mandamus action.

The term “mandamus” is a Latin word “we command”. “It is a writ or order that is issued from a court of superior jurisdiction that commands an inferior tribunal or individual to perform, or refrain from performing, a particular act, the performance or omission of which is required by law as an obligation.” The Free Dictionary by Farlex.


Under 28 U.S.C. §1361 “The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any action in the nature of mandamus to compel an officer or employee of the United States or any agency thereof to perform a duty owed to the petitioner.”

This statute simply provides a forum for filing mandamus against an officer of the United States. However, it does not provide a legal ground for suing. The person suing, in this case the petitioner, must allege a legal basis for the suit and standing to bring it. 

The Administrative Procedure Act (APA) 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq. provides a cause of action for the petitioner where the USCIS unreasonably delays the adjudication of a petition or application. “The APA requires federal administrative agencies to address matters presented to them within a reasonable time. 5 U.S.C. § 555(b) ("With due regard for the convenience and necessity of' the parties or their representatives and within a reasonable time, each agency shall proceed to conclude a matter presented to it. . . ."). The APA further states that federal courts "shall . . . compel agency action unlawfully withheld or unreasonably delayed. . . ." 5 U.S.C. § 706(1). Belegradek v. Gonzalez, 523 F. Supp. 2d 1364 (N.D. Georgia)

In Razaq v. Poulos, No. 06-2461-WDB, 2007 WL 61884, at *3 (N.D.Cal. Jan. 8, 2007), the court said: "We find that the USCIS has a mandatory duty to decide whether to grant or deny 1-130 Petitions. . . . While the substance of the decision whether to grant or deny a petition obviously is discretionary, the duty to process the application is just as obviously ministerial." Thus, while mandamus is available to compel a USCIS officer to act on a petition, it cannot compel the officer to act or decide in a particular way, that is, it cannot compel the officer to grant the petition.


"[T]here is no bright line rule as to when a delay on an application slips into the realm of unreasonableness." Linville, 489 F.Supp.2d at 1282 (quoting Elmalky v. Upchurch, No. 3:06-CV-2359-B, 2007 WL 944330, at *6 (N.D.Tex. Mar. 28, 2007)). In determining whether the Attorney General unreasonably delayed in adjudicating an application to adjust immigration status, courts have applied a rule of reason, considering: (1) the source of the delay, (2) the complexity of the investigation, (3) whether any party participated in delaying the proceeding, (4) the nature and extent of the interests prejudiced by the delay, and (5) whether expediting action on agency activities will have an adverse affect on higher or competing priorities. See Linville, 489 F.Supp.2d at 1282-83; Razaq, 2007 WL 61884, at *6; Bartolini v. Ashcroft, 226 F.Supp.2d 350, 354 (D.Conn.2002).” Belegradek v. Gonzalez, 523 F.Supp. 2d 1364 (N.D. Georgia). 


Earlier this week, a Caucasian colleague asked us to assist in filing a petition for mandamus to compel USCIS to adjudicate an I-130 petition filed by an alien’s U.S. citizen spouse which had been pending in the USCIS for more than a year.

The petition has been filed alleging the following:

1. Introduction, nature, and purpose of the action.

2. Jurisdiction – U.S. District Court. See 28 U.S.C. § 1361 (mandamus statute), 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (federal question), 28 U.S.C § 2201 (declaratory judgment).

3. Venue (where to file petition) – any judicial district where respondent resides, or where petitioner resides, or where a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred. 28 U.S.C § 1391(e). 

4. Parties – Petitioner is the person who filed the Visa Petition that has been unadjudicated. Respondents are: the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, the USCIS Director in Washington, D.C., the USCIS Director of the Service Center where petitioner filed the Visa Petition. Their office addresses should be provided.  

5. Cause of action and standing (a) clear legal right of the petitioner to the relief demanded, (b) clear legal and ministerial duty of the respondent to perform the act sought to be performed, See 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq. (Administrative Procedure Act), (c) exhaustion of all other remedies available, (d) absence of any other remedy available, except mandamus, (e) irreparable injury to petitioner because of respondent’s unreasonable failure to act and perform a duty owed to petitioner.   

6.  Claim for attorney’s fees and costs pursuant to 28 U.S.C § 2412.

7.  Prayer for relief – request court to order respondent to process petition or application, to furnish petitioner with a copy of the order granting or denying the visa petition, to order respondents to pay attorney’s fees and costs, to award such other relief as may be just and proper. 

8. Verification of petition by petitioner.

Summons on respondents. In addition to serving the petition on the above-named respondents, service of the summons should also be made on the Office of the General Counsel, Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C. 20258. 

Filing requirements. Petitioner or his Counsel must read the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the U.S. District Court local rules.

Filing fee. There is a filing fee. Petitioner or his Counsel should check the amount with the District Court where he intends to file the petition.

COMMENT AND SUGGESTION: In a previous case where a District Director unreasonably refused to adjudicate an application for adjustment of status, we prepared a complaint for mandamus, naming him as one of the respondents, and showed the complaint to him. He asked for a week to review the complaint. In less than a week, the adjustment of status was granted. However, do not try to bluff a District Director that you are going to file a complaint, unless you know him well and unless you have a copy of the complaint to show to him, the filing fee in your hand, and your attorney’s fees paid by the client.  

(Atty. Tipon has a Master of Laws degree from Yale Law School where he specialized in Constitutional Law. He has also a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of the Philippines. He placed third in the Philippine Bar Examination in 1956. His current practice focuses on immigration law and criminal defense. He writes law books for the world’s largest law book publishing company and writes legal articles for newspapers. He has a radio show in Honolulu, Hawaii with his son Noel, senior partner of the Bilecki & Tipon law firm, where they discuss legal and political issues. Office: American Savings Bank Tower, 1001 Bishop Street, Suite 2305, Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.A. 96813. Tel. (808) 225-2645. E-Mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Website: www.bileckilawgroup.com. He was born in Laoag City, Philippines. He served as a U.S. Immigration Officer. He is co-author with former Judge Artemio S. Tipon of the best-seller “Winning by Knowing Your Election Laws” and co-author of “Immigration Law Service, 1st ed.,” an 8-volume practice guide for immigration officers and lawyers. Atty. Tipon has personally experienced the entire immigration cycle by entering the United States on a non-immigrant working visa to write law books, adjusting his status to that of a lawful permanent resident, and becoming a naturalized United States citizen.)


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