The short answer is this: Yes.
In 2013, legislation was passed by Maryland’s legislature to allow illegal immigrants to obtain and keep driver’s licenses. This law repeals the 2009 requirement for proof of legal immigration status to obtain a Maryland driver’s license.
The bill is called the “Maryland Highway Safety Act of 2013” and it was introduced to the legislature by Democratic Senator Victor Ramirez. It was instituted in part, as the name suggests, to make Maryland’s roadways safer. By allowing illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, it would allow the DMV to administer tests, and also allow illegal immigrants to hold insurance for their automobiles.
Immigration law is generally defined by federal law, but many times a relevant state law must be considered under the rules denied by federal law to determine immigration consequences. This can lead to confusion and frustration, when state laws do not match federal law rules. One such example, is the definition of conviction. Certain criminal convictions can carry immigration consequences, but, in Maryland, there are criminal dispositions other than just a simple “guilty” or “not guilty” . For example, such outcomes “probation before judgment”, a “nol pros”, or a “stet”, are common, but whether they count as convictions for immigration purposes may not be as clear.
As of January 1, 2014, the State of Maryland via the MVA implemented a new process under the Real ID Act allowing immigrants who present foreign documentation without valid U.S. Citizenship and Immigration documentation to get a driver’s license (or a learner’s permit, or moped permit) or identification card.
To obtain a driver’s license or identification card, an applicant will be required to contact the IRS to obtain a taxpayer ID number, and file income taxes for the state of Maryland for the previous two years. Proof of filing can be obtained from the Maryland Comptroller’s Office. This will need to be presented in the form of a certification letter in order for the applicant to obtain an appointment. The applicant must also do the following:
- Obtain valid identity documents, such as a foreign passport;
- Obtain two documents that prove residence (for example, a copy of a lease agreement, a bank statement or a utility bill);
- Study the State of Maryland’s Driver Manual and take the test tutorial online, in order to prepare for the actual knowledge test.
06 May 2014
Immigrants who have entered the U.S. unlawfully and who wish to apply for immigrant visas are not able to do so in the United States, and must travel abroad to apply at a U.S. embassy or consulate.
If they have accrued in excess of 180 days, or more than one year of unlawful presence in the U.S., they are then subject to an automatic three or ten year bar against re-entry, unless they submit and have approved a provisional unlawful presence waiver.
What is Changing?
As of March 4, 2013, visa applicants who are the children, spouses or parents of U.S. citizens are able to apply for a provisional unlawful presence waiver here in the U.S. before leaving the country in order to initiate the immigration visa process at a U.S. consulate or embassy. This change will (hopefully) substantially shorten the amount of time that U.S. citizens will be forcibly separated from family members while those relatives are obtaining their immigrant visas abroad.
20 May 2013
USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) is run by the federal government. It is the agency that is given the responsibility of overseeing lawful immigration within the boundaries of the United States. The agency falls under the direction of the Department of Homeland Security.
USCIS provides specific services at a federal level. Many of these services include:
An Avenue to Citizenship
The USCIS provides the processes and procedures for lawful immigrants wishing to become a United States citizen. Through the naturalization process, an eligible applicant can submit an application to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (N-400). Once USCIS determines an applicant is prima facie eligible, he or she will have an ‘interveiw’ with an immigration officer at the local USCIS office to confirm the information in the application and administer the English and civics examination.
06 May 2013
Since 2000, the United States has provided U Visas to noncitizen individuals who have been a victim of a crime. The visa provides the opportunity to allow the individual to legally remain within the boundaries of the United States and obtain work authorization in exchange for their agreement to assisting law enforcement authorities in the investigation, and possible prosecution, of crimes and their perpetrators. Only victims of certain crimes qualify for U Nonimmigrant Status, but it may be available to any non-citizen victim of crimes involving domestic violence or other violence related crimes, such as incest, rape, domestic violence, trafficking, sexual assault, torture, prostitution, slave trading, abduction, involuntary servitude, unlawful criminal restraint, extortion, murder, felonious assault, perjury, conspiracy, witness tampering and many others. U Nonimmigrant Status may be available not only to the crime victim, but also to the victim’s qualifying relatives as well.
The federal government has strict immigration inadmissibility grounds that must not be violated. If the principal applicant or his or her family members have violated any of the inadmissibility grounds, they may need to file a waiver asking that the specific violations be set aside or excused . Inadmissibility grounds are often the factors involved in an individual’s inability to receive specific benefits such as obtaining a green card or entering into the United States.
29 Apr 2013
Many individuals abroad have considered working in the US, either in the short or long term. However, the United States government does not provide “a work permit” or “worker visa” to just anyone.
The only way a foreign national has the ability to work within the boundaries of the United States is to qualify for a specific visa that provides him or her with authorization to work in the United States. Not all of the 20 different types of non-immigrant visas comes with work authorization. And even those visas that do allow for work authorization come with strict limitations, and strict penalties for violating any subscribed limitations.
Working in the United States
For individuals wishing to work in the United States, there are two specific visas that may allow temporary migration to the United States. Through commercial treaties with numerous countries around the globe, the US provides both an E-1 and E- 2 visa, available specifically to those who are employed for a trading business who does trade between a treaty company and the United States or invests and manages such a company.
To be eligible for an E-visa, the employing business or investment must provide significant trade between the individual’s country of nationality and the US. A Treaty Trader E-1 Visa is available for those are employed in a high ranking position for a international trade company. The other option is a Treaty Investors E-2 Visa for individuals who will invest in a business in the United States and maintain control over the investment in the United States.
- Click here to learn more about our immigration services.
A quick comparison of the two includes:
- Treaty Trader E-1 Visa – An individual holding this particular type of visa is required to hold a controlling position in a company that produces substantial trade between their own national country and the United States. However, there is no specific minimum requirement of investment by the invidual other than to produce adequate income to maintain the financial needs of the individual and his or her immediate family, also residing in the Untied States.
- Treaty Investor E-2 Visa – This type of visa is specifically founded on investments. Any individual that is investing a significant amount of financial capital can apply for a treaty investor visa. This may allow him or her to come to the United States to develop the specific operations necessary to create and manage the enterprise involved in the investment.
Both types of visas allow the individual to arrive and remain within the borders of the United States for an indeterminate amount of time. However, it must be their intention to depart the United States once the status of their E-1 or E-2 has terminated or expired.
An experienced employment visa attorney can assist foreign nationals who are seeking visas to work for treaty companies in a variety of capacities including as a supervisor, manager or executive. Additionally, a visa could also be obtained by foreign nationals that have specific qualifications that are crucial to the daily operation of an invested enterprise within the United States. The immigration laws also allow a spouse of an individual holding an E-1 or E-2 Investors/Treaty Visa to apply for permission to work within the United States.
There are also other types of employment visas available that include:
- H Visa – Issued to professional workers in temporary situations
- L Visa – Issued to transferees within a company
- O Visa – Issued to individuals that are recognized as having international or national acclaim
- P Visa – Issued to entertainers, artists and athletes
- R Visa – Issued to members of religious orders including ministers, religious workers and clergy
The employment visa laws within the United States are extremely complex. If you have questions or concerns about the processes and procedures listed here, please contact us today to setup an initial consultation.
Beginning in June 2012, the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) changed the way they would handle immigration cases of individuals that came to the US as children without proper documentation. The new policies provide specific guidelines that must be met by the individual to obtain ‘deferred action’ for up to 24 months. Deferred action means that the government will temporarily ‘defer’ or stop the deportation of the child immigration while he or she maintains this status. The process is subject to review and renewal and also provides the applicant with work authorization eligibility.
Deferred action for Childhood Arrivals as provided by USCIS is issued after a discretionary determination has been made, but does not offer lawful status to the individual.
Transforming Immigration Enforcement
Since 2010, federal agencies have made great strides in transforming the processes and procedures of immigration enforcement. Their guidance has been focused more on border security, public safety, and the immigration system’s integrity.
In this effort, many of the enforcement resources have focused mainly on removing or deporting unlawful immigrants that pose a specific danger to the country’s national security or potential harm to public safety. This includes any person that has been convicted of a felony crime, especially those who are repeat offenders, felons, or criminals found guilty of violent or fraud based crimes.
More recently, federal agencies have been diverting enforcement resources away from low priority cases, including individuals that were brought to the US as children. People that have the ability to demonstrate they meet the following regulations might be able to request deferred action for a period of 24 months (with possible renewal) and provide employment authorization eligibility.
If you meet the following requirements, you may be able to request deferred action. These requirements include:
- As of the 15th day of June 2012, you were younger than 31 years old.
- You were brought to the United States without documentation before you were 16 years old.
- You have continually resided within the boundaries of the United States since the 15th day of June 2007 until now.
- As of the 15th day of June 2012, you were physically present within the United States borders. Additionally, you are in the United States when making the request to be considered for deferred action.
- You are currently active in school, or have graduated, or acquired a GED (general education development) certificate or currently hold a high school certificate of completion. If not, being a veteran of the US Armed Forces or Coast Guard will meet this requirement.
- To date you have not been convicted of a major misdemeanor, or felony. You have not been convicted of more than two non-substantial misdemeanors, and have never posed any risk to the nation’s security or safety.
One of the major factors in achieving Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is the ability to obtain your employment authorization. Although you will not receive lawful immigration status within the United States, you will also not accrue an unlawful presence during that period of time when the deferred action is active and will be allowed to work legally.
Requesting consideration to receive deferred action requires the submittal of form USCIS I-821D, along with form I-765 WS. This completed worksheet will help establish the economic need you have for current employment. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is discretionary, which means that USCIS may consider positive or negative factors involved with your case when determining whether to approve your application. After the application has been submitted and accepted, the USCIS agency will inform you in writing, of the determination that was made in your specific case.
If you have questions about whether you should submit an application for DACA, please contact us today.
21 May 2012
If you are a business owner that employs immigrants, a surprise visit from ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) can be a nerve-racking experience to say the least. A corporate immigration audit can lead to fines or even criminal charges if problems are uncovered, or it can mean the termination of most of your workforce.
Any business is susceptible to corporate immigration audits, but there are ways to survive them.
Who gets audited?
ICE has greatly stepped up its enforcement of these audits throughout the tenure of the Obama administration through I-9 compliance regulation. The reasoning behind the audits is the belief that employers who are hiring undocumented workers are at least partially responsible for fueling the incentive for undocumented immigration. Fairly or unfairly, these employers are being stereotyped as thrifty business owners who are trying to save money by hiring undocumented immigrants at lower wages than what legal US residents would work for.
For many employers, these stereotypes are not true, but they still must be on the watch for an audit regardless. There are plenty of business owners who collect all of the information that is necessary and treat all of their employees equally, but who do not realize that the employee information provided to them is fraudulent, potentially leading to penalties in the event of an audit. On the other hand, if the business owner turns an employee away because he or she thinks information provided by a foreign employee could be falsified, he or she could be faced with discrimination charges. Either way, this can certainly devastate a business.
The best defense is a good offense
The best way to survive an audit is to be proactive – and that means being prepared and organized especially when it comes to documentation and processes. There is now an electronic program called E-Verify that business owners can use to check the validity of their applicant’s I-9 employment information. The use of this program is now mandatory in some states. But even if you do not use E-Verify to double check employment eligibility, I-9s should be completed for all employees and retained for the appropriate amount of time.
Employers should also consider conducting random audits on themselves from time to time to be sure that they have all of their employees’ I-9 information. If there is information missing, it should be added, then initialed and dated at the time that it is added.
Be sure to document any and all steps you have taken to obtain the proper employment verification information. It is hard not to be sympathetic to the human aspect of these situations, but as the business owner, you must do your best to comply with the law and protect yourself, as well as the future of the corporation.
If you are unsure about any of the requirements, consult the professional legal guidance of an experienced immigration attorney as corporate immigration audits are not to be taken lightly.
The latest innovation in employment immigration law by the Federal Government immigration law is the free program run by the Federal government called E-Verify (also known as Self Check), an internet based system designed to give workers online access to their employment eligibility information before they apply for a job. The benefit is that workers can correct any issues or errors in their eligibility status prior to a problem arising, thus saving time and paperwork along the way. But as with any automated online system, fraud has become a major concern for workers, employers, and the government.
The E-Verify program began in 1997 as a pilot program along with several other programs that tried to prevent undocumented aliens from being hired. The E-Verify program is now operated by the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration. Several states require it for certain state agencies, but employers across the nation can voluntarily participate. Currently, more than 240,000 employers use E-Verify, with more than 1,400 new employers being added every week.
How E-Verify Self Check Works
The online system compares an employee’s Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 to data contained in United States government records. When the information matches, the employee is eligible to work in the United States. When there is a non-match, E-Verify Self Check notifies the employer or employee (depending on who submitted the check), and the employee is allowed to work temporarily until the issue is resolved. The employee must contact the correct agency within eight days to address the problem.
Use of E-Verify
Since 2007, all Federal agencies have been required to use the system, and several state governments require it now as well. However, participation in E-Verify is still voluntary for most employers. One noted controversy is that since some states are beginning to require employers to use E-Verify, employment practices will vary from state to state.
However, if you wish to use E-Verify, when an employee is hired, a Form I-9 must be completed. The information from this Form is then entered into E-Verify, where it is compared against millions of government records to confirm eligibility for employment. Since 2007, biometric data has also been used in the program, and the Federal government has been considering cross referencing states driver’s license records as further checks on eligibility status.
There are several ways foreign workers can obtain permission to work in the United States, such as through practical training programs for students and workers, including the H-1B Visa program.
Fraud concerns with E-Verify
A major controversy arose when states, such as Arizona, passed laws requiring all employers state-wide to use E-Verify for all employees. Many disapprove, noting that there are still fraud concerns that should be addressed before requiring all employers to participate in E-Verify. A December 2010 study by the Government Accountability Office confirmed that the program is susceptible to identity fraud due to internal problems, as well as the ability for employees to borrow or even steal legitimate documents from others and mistakenly be confirmed as eligible to work.
To learn more about immigration law and E-Verify Self Check, contact The Law Firm of Annapolis. We provide immigration law services in the Annapolis and Baltimore, Maryland areas.