Articles Posted in Immigration

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Only a few days before hundreds of thousands, or perhaps millions, of undocumented immigrants would have become eligible to apply under the expansion of certain immigration programs, a federal judge in Texas issued a temporary injunction that prevents the federal government from processing applications. The injunction was issued as part of a lawsuit in which 26 states sued the federal government, alleging that President Obama’s expansion of existing immigration programs would cause them significant and irreparable economic harm by having to expend tax dollars to accommodate undocumented immigrants.

Last fall, President Obama issued an executive order allowing for the creation of a new immigration program called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), as well as an expansion of an existing program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Under the DACA program, young people who came to the US as children could apply for a status known as “deferred action.” Under this status, immigrants who entered the country before June 2007 and before their 16th birthday could obtain work permits and exemptions from deportation lasting for two years. Applicants must also be under age 31. The expansion of DACA would eliminate the age-31 requirement and move the 2007 cutoff to 2010.

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In an effort to spur economic development in the Miami-Dade area, local government officials have created a new office charged with obtaining investors to fund projects in the area. In the case of this new agency, the targeted investors are foreign ones, and the office is using the prospect of legal immigration status as a prize to pull in these foreign investors and cement Miami’s status as an international business hub, the Miami Herald reported.

Back in May, federal immigration officials designated the creation of a new regional center for EB-5 visas in Miami. Running the center is a new agency created by Miami-Dade government, the Office of International Business Development.

EB-5 is also known as the “Immigrant Investor Program” and grants visas to certain foreign nationals who make substantial investments in US businesses. Foreign investors under the EB-5 program must invest at least $1 million, unless they place their investments in a “targeted” high-unemployment or rural area, in which case the floor is $500,000. Federal law limits the issuance of EB-5 visas to only 10,000 per year.

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In a recent article for the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s online publication, Stok Folk & Kon attorney Sheri A. Benchetrit provided readers with an illuminating insight into one attorney’s professional path that led her to the practice of immigration law and the pivotal moment when “I knew why I became an immigration attorney.” The autobiographical article brings into sharp focus the zeal, passion, and personal dedication Benchetrit brings on behalf of each of her immigration law clients.

Benchetrit, who has been with Stok Folk & Kon for more than half a decade, began her practice in 1992, relocating to Miami in 2006. Shortly after coming to South Florida, Benchetrit began focusing her professional efforts exclusively on assisting immigration law clients. Two years later, Benchetrit encountered the case that would serve as her proof that her focus on immigration law was the right choice. Benchetrit had met a minister who told her of a Haitian woman being held at an immigration detention facility in Broward County. The woman had a husband and four children who were already in the US and had become US citizens. The woman had applied for asylum years earlier, but the application had become entangled in the procedural complexities of the immigration system, with some of her filings suffering from her failure to seek legal assistance in completing them. As a result, her application was ultimately denied.

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In 2012, President Obama signed the treaty allowing Israelis to obtain investor’s visas in the U.S.  However, the treaty was not formally agreed upon and signed by the Israeli government until now.  On March 30, 2014, the Israeli government in its weekly meeting approved the reciprocal investor’s visa treaty for American Investors.

E-2 Investor Visas allow people, from a select group of countries, to enter the United States and work on a “substantial” investment within the country. While the visas need to be renewed every five years, they can last for a potentially unlimited period of time. However, they are not meant to serve as a path to immigration, and showing intent to immigrate could hurt the chance for an extension. The visas are useful for entrepreneurs who have a great deal of money, no other visa options available, and no intent to become a citizen of the United States

According to a government official responsible for pushing this issue forward, “Following government approval, we’ll need to amend prevailing regulations and draft procedures, but I hope that these steps will be completed as soon as possible.”  This means that once the procedural terms are defined by Israel for Americans investing there, the treaty will take full force and effect and Israelis will be entitled to obtain investor’s visas in the U.S.

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The Department of Homeland Security has announced an extension of Temporary Protected Status for Haitians. Nationals of Haiti who re-register will be given another 18 months of TPS status, from July 23, 2014 to January 22, 2016.

The TPS status for Haiti was designated in 2010, after the disastrous earthquake in that country that claimed as many as 200,000 lives and left many areas in shambles. While many players in the international community lent support to Haiti, the United States’ close proximity presented an opportunity of refuge from the dangerous aftermath.

The state of Florida was particularly responsible for offering asylum, making the TPS extension particularly relevant in our corner of the country. South Florida is home to the largest percentage of Haitian Americans in the country, and Haiti lies just 692 miles away from Miami.

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The last time things in Venezuela were this unstable was back in the late 80s and early 90s, when the seed was being planted for Hugo Chavez’s eventual meteoric rise to power. The controversial leader implemented sweeping social reforms as part of the Bolivarian Revolution, which included, quite famously, nationalization of Venezuela’s oil industry and large welfare programs. From 2000, at beginning of Chavez’s first term, to 2006, the population of Venezuelans in the United States grew from 91,507 to 177,866, according to census data.

Much of that growth, of course, was concentrated in South Florida. Now, a new wave of political unrest in Venezuela is grabbing the attention of those involved in South Floridian immigration law.

Student protests have clashed with the government of President Nicolas Maduro, who was elected president last year in the wake of Chavez’s death. Since taking office, economic conditions in Venezuela have drastically deteriorated; the value of their currency has plummeted alongside shortages of goods. Protests in response mounted, and after government forces opened fire on a crowd, claiming the lives of four students, outrage was fueled even further.  Just yesterday, Venezuela’s opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, was detained, standing accused by Maduro’s government of inciting violence.

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Florida is home to about 6% of the total United States population. It is also home to a whopping one quarter of total foreign investment in United States residential real estate. Since the 2008 financial crisis and housing collapse, the South Florida real estate industry has bounced back at an extraordinary rate. Due in part to foreign investors, as well as low interest rates and prices, the tax base in Florida is skyrocketing, encouraging development and investment even further.

Construction in South Florida is rampant, and expected to increase even more, with areas competing for the most attractive projects. As more foreigners raise their financial stakes in the local market, they are beginning to call Florida home, relocating aspects of their personal lives and business operations. These investor immigrants are arriving from all over the world, excited to enjoy life and do business in South Florida. However, they still need to go through an immigration process to relocate permanently.

As high-end luxury condominiums and other housing projects are built, the South Florida legal community is adapting to the particular needs of wealthy foreign investors. The demand for specialized legal services, from securing immigration status for family members to providing L-visas for intra-company transfers, is rising.