ICEPIC Details Released; Public Comments Accepted

January 31, 2008

DHS has published in the Federal Register the official notice and related proposed rulemaking regarding the implementation of ICEPIC, a massive government database of immigration and law enforcement records that it says will help fight terrorism.

The notification provides background on the new information sharing program and the rulemaking involves DHS’ request that ICEPIC be exempt from certain requirements of the Privacy Act that it says is necessary in the name of law enforcement and national security needs.

The notice and the rulemaking both solicit public comments. Comments on the rulemaking are due on or before March 10, 2008. ICE will then issue a new notice that addresses public comments, responds to OMB direction, and includes other ICE changes no later than August 27, 2008. The procedure for making comments is detailed in the DHS notice and rulemaking.

ICEPIC is already in limited operation, according to the notice. ICE says the database will help fight terrorism by enabling officials to link suspected terrorists or other criminals with associates who are in the system.

The database program compiles information on immigrants and other individuals collected from more than nine other federal sources, including DHS and law enforcement records that will be shared with federal, state, local and international law enforcement.

Critics of the program, such as the ACLU, fear innocent people will be arrested due to inaccurate information being captured in the database, pointing to the terrorism watch list as an example. The ACLU explains that if the data is bad, and that bad data migrates from one database to another, innocent people are the victims who are being stopped or labeled as suspicious.

The notification and proposed rulemaking involving ICEPIC (ICE Pattern Analysis and Information Collection) appeared in the Jan. 30 edition of the Federal Register, and are available here:

Notification: text,  PDF

Rulemaking: text,  PDF

For more information, please read our previous article: Big Brother Brightens Beam on Immigrants.


States Cracking Down on Unauthorized Employment; Employers Fighting Back

January 29, 2008

Lately it seems the media has been teeming with stories on the backlash in states that have introduced legislation requiring employers to use a maligned federal database to verify a worker’s social security number.

In the past year or so, more and more states are contemplating or have already implemented legislation that compels employers to verify work authorization using the federal electronic verification program, called E-verify.

This week alone media reports on opposition to the forced use of the E-verify system included CaliforniaTexas, Arizona  and Kansas. Employers in Oregon are also rallying against proposed regulations targeting undocumented workers.

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Beware the “Notario”: Tips on Avoiding Immigration Fraud

January 28, 2008

Horror stories abound in the media about the disastrous consequences caused by “notarios,” “immigration consultants,” and other non-lawyers giving bad immigration advice that causes foreign nationals to permanently lose their rights to stay in the U.S.

Everyone is vulnerable to this exploitation of newcomers. The Colombian-born wife of Georgia State Sen. Curt B. Thompson was on the brink of deportation because she relied on an unscrupulous “notario” to handle her case.

Usually foreign nationals who are the most in need of competent legal advice – those living illegally in the U.S. or who have been arrested and face deportation – are the ones most likely to fall prey to the false promises of a green card from these scam artists.

Part of the reason so many are vulnerable to this type of fraud stems from differences in the structure and regulation of U.S. legal services providers compared to the structure in other countries. The immoral take advantage of these differences to lure their victims. In particular, there are two terms that can confuse foreign nationals seeking immigration help in the US: 1) “Notary” and 2) “Immigration Consultant” or similar title.

Notary, aka Notario, Notaire

In many countries a person who carries the title of notary, (notario in Spanish, or notaire in French), is authorized to provide legal services similar to those performed by a transactional lawyer in the United States. These notaries undergo extensive education and training in their field to earn the coveted title of notary in their country. 

While a licensed notario in Mexico may be competent to dispense legal advice and to provide legal services under Mexican law, a notary in the United States has no such competency or authorization.

In the US, a “notary” or “notary public” has a specific power and purpose: Notaries are appointed by the state government to witness and verify the identity of a person signing a document and to administer oaths. A notary is not qualified to give legal advice at all. Period. Qualifications to be a notary or notary public in the United States typically consist of completing a short training course and little more.

In fact, to avoid the confusion between the two titles many states in the U.S., such as Texas, prohibit the translation of the English title “notary public” into Spanish. 

The confusion between the two terms and the corresponding danger it poses to foreign nationals in the U.S. has prompted the Secretary of State in Texas to post an article detailing the differences between a notary public in the United States and the notario publico in Mexico. 

Legal Consultant v. Immigration Consultant

Another title frequently used by nonlawyers in the U.S. that can mislead foreign nationals is “immigration consultant” or similar such term.

Many countries have different degrees of regulated legal service providers, one of which may be called a “legal consultant.” These “legal consultants” are legitimate, but have limited authority to provide only certain types of legal advice. They even exist in the U.S., for example, in New York and California.  These are lawyers licensed in other countries who are authorized by New York or California to provide legal advice only in connection with the lawyer’s home country. These consultants generally are restricted from providing legal advice regarding U.S. laws, including immigration laws.

The term “immigration consultant” is reminiscent of these legitimate legal consultants, but while legal consultants are regulated and held to certain professional, ethical standards, those using the title “immigration consultant” historically were not regulated, which enabled immigration fraud to proliferate.

A foreign national may be mislead by this professional and legal sounding title that resemble titles familiar to him from home and think he is dealing with an authorized legal advisor, when in fact, he is not.

In recent years, a few states have cracked down on this type of misrepresentation, either prohibiting use of the term “immigration consultant” or restricting its to only certain, qualified people. Nevertheless, in most states the term remains unregulated, meaning foreign nationals are still at risk of unwittingly relying on the wrong person for help.

Finding Competent Immigration Legal Advice in the United States

Foreign nationals familiar only with their legal system do not realize the unethical people who label themselves as notarios or immigration consultants may not be qualified or authorized to give legal advice in the U.S. The consequences can be tragic, with foreign nationals being deported or trapped outside the U.S. unable to return home to husbands, wives and children.

In the U.S., the only person trained and authorized to give legal advice is a lawyer, also referred to as an attorney-at-law. No other person is competent to give legal advice. If a non-lawyer gives legal advice he or she can be charged with the unauthorized practice of law in the state.

Organizations throughout the U.S. are stepping up efforts to educate the public about the unauthorized practice of law and the dangers of relying on legal advice by nonlawyers such as the American Bar Association (ABA)  and AILA (the American Immigration Lawyers Association).

In a public service information piece, the ABA identifies these titles as red flags for those seeking immigration assistance:

  • Notario
  • Notario Publico
  • Visa Consultant
  • Immigration Consultant

Other red flags the ABA cites include:

* The person told you that you could get a green card or other benefit for which you were never eligible. 

* The person said he or she could get you special treatment from a government agency such as Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or Immigration & Customs Enforcement (USICE).

* The person kept your original documents and/or your court notices and made you pay a fee in order to get them back.

* The person asked you to sign blank forms.

* The person took your money and did not provide you with any services.

* The person falsely told you he or she was a licensed attorney.

AILA has published a brochure on how to find competent immigration advice. AILA’s brochure provides the following tips:

1) Use common sense. Many people hear what they want to hear-be smart! If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

2) Don’t believe it if someone tells you about a secret law or claims to have connections or special influence with any agency.

3) Don’t pay money to someone to refer you to a lawyer.

4) Walk away if a lawyer doesn’t have a license.

5) Never sign an application that contains false information, and try to avoid signing blank forms. If you must sign a blank form, make sure you get a copy of the completed form and review it for accuracy before it is filed.

6) Always get proof of filing-a copy or government filing receipt-when anything is submitted in your case.

7) Insist on a written contract that details all fees and expenses and make sure you receive a receipt, especially if you pay cash. If terms change, get a written explanation.

8)  Don’t let anyone “find” you a sponsor or spouse to get you a green card-it’s illegal.

While some may view these warnings by lawyers about nonlawyers to be self-serving (and it is), the warnings are also equally necessary to educate the public so each person can make an informed choice before deciding to engage a lawyer or nonlawyer to assist with an immigration case.

Where to Find Help

If you think you have been a victim of an immigration scam artist, seek professional legal help immediately from an immigration attorney. To find a qualified immigration attorney in your area, you can contact AILA toll free at 1-800-954-0254 or online at http://www.ailalawyer.com/.

Another resource for immigration assistance is an “accredited representative.” An accredited representative has been recognized by the U.S. government as having the skill and training to assist people with their immigration matters. These representatives work with a nonprofit community or religious organization. A list of accredited representatives is available at www.usdoj.gov/eoir/statspub/raroster.htm.

For free or low-cost immigration legal services, the ABA also provides a state-by-state directory.

More information about fraudulent immigration scams in English and Spanish (Español), are available through the following resources:

English

* ABA: The Dangers Of “Notario” Fraud

* AILA: Protect Your Dreams!

* Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.

Español

* ABA: El Peligro De Fraude De “Notario”

*AILA: ¡Proteja Sus Sueños!

* Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.: Cuidado Con Los Notarios


Implanter Une Compagnie Aux Etats-Unis

January 27, 2008

La création d’une compagnie aux États-Unis est relativement simple, peu onéreuse et plutôt rapide par rapport à de nombreux pays à travers le monde, et cela même si vous n’êtes pas citoyen Américain ou que vous ne vivez pas aux États-Unis. La création d’une société à l’exception de certaine entreprise ne requiert aucun capital minimum.

Cependant il n’est pas nécessaire d’être citoyen ou de résider aux Etats-Unis pour créer ou posséder une société ou être en partenariat. Il y a peux de restrictions et la création d’entreprise peut se faire dans certain cas en un jour. Par ailleurs il est conseillé de consulter les services d’un avocat afin d’avoir de plus amples informations quant aux différentes législations à travers chaque état.

Cette compagnie peut être crée dans l’état de votre choix. Si vous envisagez par la suite d’implanter votre siège social aux Etats-Unis, il sera préférable de le créer dans le même état pour une meilleure efficience.

Pour ceux qui ne résident pas aux Etats-Unis et qui n’ont pas de préférence pour s’implanter dans un état ou un autre en particulier, l’Etat du Delaware ou Nevada restent des choix judicieux en raison des conditions favorables à l’implantation des entreprises. Ainsi, les entreprises qui ont pour objectif d’ouvrir des filiales dans différents états commencent par implanter la société mère dans l’Etat du Delaware ou le Nevada.

Les étapes de base pour constituer société sont similaires d’un état à l’autre. L’Etat du Delaware étant le plus propice pour constituer une compagnie, nous servira d’exemple pour énoncer les différentes étapes :

1) Choisir la structure juridique de l’entreprise (ex. LLC ou Corporation). Le Secrétaire d’Etat du Delaware a un tableau de comparaison des différentes entreprises sur son site internet. Cette étape est l’une des plus critiques dans la création d’une entreprise aux Etats-Unis. L’entité que vous choisissez doit être très spécifique à vos besoins. Chaque structure juridique a ses avantages et ses inconvénients. Cette décision devrait être prise qu’après consultation avec un comptable, un avocat et autres professionnels qui peuvent avoir des informations et des conseils par rapport à votre nouvelle entreprise.

2) Choisissez le nom de votre compagnie : Assurez vous de choisir un nom original afin d’éviter les revendications d’une autre entreprise d’avoir utiliser son nom. Vous pouvez réserver votre nom avant de déposer les documents de formation de votre compagnie.

3) Prendre un agent enregistré ou bien «registered agent» : Avoir un agent enregistrée est exigée par la loi (certains états référent à un agent enregistre comme à un agent résident “résident agent”, mais ils ont le même rôle). Le but de l’agent enregistré est de réceptionner tous documents important, juridiques et fiscaux. L’agent enregistré est un individu ou une entreprise agréée par l’état pour agir en qualité de mandataire. Dans l’Etat du Delaware l’agent enregistré doit avoir une adresse (et non une boîte postale) est doit être disponible durant les heures ouvrables afin de pouvoir recevoir toute citations, notamment : préavis d’un litige pour toutes poursuites judiciaires à l’encontre de votre compagnie. Si votre entreprise est physiquement située dans le Delaware, vous pouvez donc agir comme votre propre agent enregistré. Si votre entreprise ne fait pas d’affaire dans l’Etat du Delaware, vous pouvez désigner un agent enregistré agréé. Il existe de nombreuses compagnies qui offrent ce service à travers les Etats-Unis et ceci à des tarifs raisonnable.

4) Enregistrer les documents de formation de l’entité de votre choix (par exemple pour une «corporation» il faut le «Certificate of Incorporation»).

5) Il vous faudra aussi obtenir pour votre entreprise un numéro d’identification de l’employeur connu comme le (EIN) ou bien le numéro d’identification fiscale fédérale auprès des bureaux de IRS (Internal Revenue Service). Ce numéro peut être obtenu via Internet. Ce numéro est nécessaire à des fins d’impôts et pour l’ouverture d’un compte bancaire.

6) chaque états pourraient avoir des étapes supplémentaire à accomplir tel que obtenir des permis ou l’enregistrement de l’entreprise auprès des collectivités locales ou organismes d’état afin que vous puissiez commencer à exercer votre activité.

L’IRS et les services fiscaux de l’état ont d’autres conditions à remplir lors de la création d’une entreprise. Par exemple, pour une corporation, le propriétaire doit décider si elle doit être une corporation C ou S. Chacune comportent différentes implications fiscales fédérales. Veuillez consulter votre avocat et votre comptable pour vous assurer que vous avez suivi toutes les procédures requises.

Pour Delaware, les coûts de formation comprennent :

– $ 89 comme frais d’enregistrement du Certificate of Incorporation

– $ 30 pour une copie certifiée conforme du Certificate of Incorporation.

– Les frais annuel de l’agent enregistré dans le Delaware peuvent être $ 50. Les taux varient dans chaque états. Le Secrétaire d’État du Delaware maintient une liste des noms des agents du Delaware sur son site Internet.

– L’obtention de permis supplémentaires peuvent induire d’autres frais : frais d’avocat, de comptable et autres honoraires professionnels. Ces frais varient d’un endroit à l’autre.

Voir aussi notre article à ce sujet, Comparison of Business Forms.


Big Brother Brightens Beam on Immigrants

January 25, 2008

Immigration authorities are getting ready to launch a massive information sharing program to aid law enforcement that critics say poses a risk of foreign nationals being wrongfully arrested due to inaccurate data, according to an online article by USA Today

The database program compiles information on immigration and immigrants collected from more than nine other federal sources that will be shared with federal, state, and local law enforcement, according to the article.

The databases used for the program include those that not only track criminals and suspected terrorists, but also foreign students, visitors and immigrants.

Federal officials say the database program will help law enforcement agents link suspected terrorists or other criminals with associates who are in the system, according to the USA Today article.

Civil rights and privacy groups, such as the ACLU, however, raise concerns about the accuracy of the information being compiled, USA Today reports.

As an example, among the databases immigration officials say is being used is the government’s terrorist watch list, which is the source of numerous false terrorism or criminal “hits” on the names of visa holders entering the U.S. More than 15,000 people have sought to have their names removed from that list due to incomplete or inaccurate information.

As with the terrorist watch list, the ACLU fears investigators will arrest innocent people based on information from the flawed databases. The ACLU explains that if the data is bad, and that bad data migrates from one database to another, innocent people are the victims who are being stopped or labeled as suspicious.

The database will be run by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and is known as “ICEPIC,” short for the ICE Pattern Analysis and Information Collection System.

ICEPIC will be posted in the Federal Register on Tuesday and will be in use after a 30-day comment period, ICE officials told USA Today.


Employer Prosecutions Under AZ Sanctions Law On Hold Until March 1 Pending Court Ruling

January 19, 2008

Employers in Arizona received a reprieve until March 1, 2008 from prosecutions under a precedent-setting employer sanctions law pending a federal court ruling in a constitutional challenge to the state regulation.

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India Hits Limit for EB-2 Visas for FY 2008

January 10, 2008

India has hit its annual limit for second-preference, employment-based immigrant visas (EB-2), meaning no more are available effective immediately, according to the February 2008 Department of State Visa Bulletin.

The category will remain unavailable for the remainder of fiscal year 2008, which ends Sept. 30, 2008. New numbers should be released Oct. 1, 2008.

Second-preference employment visas are those for members of the professions holding advanced degrees or persons of exceptional ability, including National Interest Waiver cases.

During the last couple of months, this category for India had been retrogressing due to heavy demand, signaling it would soon be oversubscribed. Between the November and December bulletins, the cut-off date moved from April 1, 2004 to Jan. 1, 2002, then in January it moved back to Jan. 1, 2000.