USCIS Extends Flexibility for Responding to Requests (RFEs, NOIDs, Denials and Appeals) as well as Updates Guidelines on Validity Periods for Certain EAD (Work) Cards

Recently, USCIS again granted extensions for responding to their requests. For any Request for Evidence (RFE), Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID), Appeal or other agency requests, USCIS will consider a response to the above requests and notices timely if received within 60 calendar days after the response due date. This applies to agency requests issued between March 1, 2020 and March 26, 2022. Additionally, the deadline for filing I-290B Appeals has been extended from 60 to 90 days for decisions issued between Nov. 1, 2021, and March 26, 2022. These extensions have been ongoing since the beginning of the pandemic.

Initial and renewal EADs (work cards) generally may be issued with a maximum validity period of up to two years for asylees and refugees, noncitizens with withholding of deportation or removal, and VAWA self-petitioners, or up to the end of the authorized deferred action or parole period for applicants in these filing categories. This policy update is effective immediately. EADs issued before February 7, 2022, are not affected. For more information about expedited processing for EADs and advance parole travel documents, see https://www.aila.org/File/Related/Flyer-EAD-AP-Jan2022.pdf.

The immigration attorneys at Heiferman & Associates has successfully responded to numerous agency requests for individuals applying for green cards, asylum, citizenship as well as employment based visa. Our attorneys aggressively respond to agency requests to preserve your rights. We also have been successful suing on behalf of clients in federal court. Justin Heiferman is an experienced former government prosecutor. Mr. Heiferman is a skilled negotiator when dealing with immigration and other government officials and trains his staff so that our clients receive the best outcome possible. Our immigration lawyers also assist clients with applying for most visas, green cards and citizenship. We defend clients in Immigration Court and with appeals. We are available by appointment, Zoom, Teams, Google and more. Please contact us today at (718) 888-9545 to schedule an initial consultation.

Update to Marijuana Statutes and Expungement Under New York State Law

Under New York State Law, some marijuana possession charges are automatically expunged from your record. Under the new law, charges that are eligible for expungement are expanded. Other charges require a motion to be submitted.

Expungement means that the arrest, the court case, and the conviction are treated as if they never happened. For a definition of expungement see CPL 1.20 (45). Charges that have been expunged:

  • will not appear or show up on a criminal history background check.
  • cannot be used against an individual when applying for housing, student loans, or a job.
  • will not be found by law enforcement unless you are applying for a gun license or a job in law enforcement.
  • do not need to be listed on a job or school application that asks about convictions or arrests.

Statutes that are automatically expunged without motion include (

  • PL 221.05 Unlawful Possession of Marihuana in the Second Degree
  • PL 221.10 Unlawful Possession of Marihuana in the First Degree
  • PL 221.15 Criminal Possession of Marihuana in the Fourth Degree
  • PL 221.20 Criminal Possession of Marihuana in the Third Degree
  • PL 221.35 Criminal Sale of Marihuana in the Fifth Degree
  • PL 221.40 Criminal Possession of Marihuana in the Fourth Degree
  • PL 222.10 Restrictions on Cannabis Use
  • PL 222.15 Personal Cultivation and Home Possession of Cannabis
  • PL 222.25 Unlawful Possession of Cannabis, and
  • PL 222.45 Unlawful Sale of Cannabis
  • The Court will not send out notices to individuals that a case was expunged. The Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), the police, District Attorneys, and other law enforcement agencies will be notified.
  • If you would like to know if your conviction was expunged, you can request a certification of disposition from the Court where it was decided.

Potential Immigration Consequences

Non-US Citizens may wish to speak with an immigration attorney before taking any additional steps regarding their criminal record. They may need to file a different type of motion even if the conviction is eligible for automatic expungement.

The criminal defense attorneys at Heiferman & Associates have sealed/expunged major felonies including sale of controlled substances, burglary, DWI (driving while intoxicated) and more. Don’t let a past mistake get in your way. With a clean record, people will be able to pass background checks for employment. Our criminal defense lawyers assisted numerous clients seal records in New York and New Jersey. These successes include both felony and misdemeanor convictions. Additionally, our immigration lawyers can advise how your criminal cases can/will affect your immigration issues. If you or someone you know has a criminal conviction, we might be able to help seal (NY) or expunge (NJ) your record. Contact us today at (718) 888-9545 for a consultation.

USCIS Allows Employment Authorization for Individuals Covered by Deferred Enforced Departure for Hong Kong Residents

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently issued a Federal Register notice. It includes information on how to apply for employment authorization for eligible Hong Kong residents. This is covered under the president’s Aug. 5, 2021 memorandum directing Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for 18 months, through Feb. 5, 2023.

DED for Hong Kong residents applies only to certain eligible Hong Kong residents who were present in the United States as of Aug. 5, 2021. The residents must have continuously resided here since that date. They must meet other eligibility criteria described in the president’s memorandum. For purposes of this DED policy, Hong Kong residents are individuals of any nationality, or without nationality, who have met the requirements and been issued a Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) passport, a British National Overseas passport, a British Overseas Citizen passport, a Hong Kong Permanent Identity Card, or an HKSAR Document of Identity for Visa Purposes. There is no application for DED. Eligible Hong Kong residents covered by the president’s DED memorandum may also receive travel authorization. Individuals must file an application for advance parole if they wish to travel based on DED.

The immigration attorneys at Heiferman & Associates are here to assist with DED. We also assist with TPS applications (for countries such as Venezuela, Haiti, El Salvador, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua and Sudan). Our immigration lawyers also assist clients with applying for most visas, green cards and citizenship. We defend clients in Immigration Court and with appeals. We are available by appointment, Zoom, Teams, Google and more. Please contact us today at (718) 888-9545 to schedule an initial consultation.

New York City Fair Chance Act (NYFCA) adds protections for individuals with criminal records.

In 2015, NYC passed the NYFCA that prohibited employers from inquiring about a potential employee’s criminal record before a job offer. An employer could not rescind an offer based on a prior conviction without undertaking a “Fair Chance Process”. This processing including balancing factors in Article 23-A of the New York Corrections Law. If a job offer was taken away, the employer needed to share the analysis with the individual. The applicant was also to be given at least 3 days to respond.

The first amendment to the Act extends these protections to CURRENT employees, not just applicants. The analysis for employees and independent contractors slightly differs than the analysis required for applicants. It uses seven factors (the “NYC Fair Chance Factors”) set forth in the NYC Commission on Human Rights Legal Enforcement Guidance. For applicants, employers use eight factors set forth in Article 23-A of the New York Corrections Law.

The next change allows applicants more time to respond. Applicants are given a minimum of five days instead of three. Additionally, there are changes to the vetting process. Under the original NYFCA, the only restrictions for an employer’s review and consideration of an applicant’s background checks were the requirements of the Fair Chance Process. Now, an employer must separate its review of such a report into two phases. (1) Before making an offer, the employer may only review non-criminal background information (employers may not review driving records because these records could contain references to criminal history). (2) After reviewing the information and making a conditional offer, the employer can review criminal history and driving records and, if needed, engage in the Fair Chance Process.

The amended NYFCA and the New York City Commission on Human Rights’ NYFCA guidance states private and most public employers are prohibited from seeking any information or taking adverse employment action based on a person’s non-conviction history. This includes arrests that did not result in prosecution, cases in which all charges were dismissed, youthful offenses, and sealed convictions.

The criminal defense attorneys and employment attorneys are here to assist employees and employers with questions about the job screening process. Our criminal defense lawyers are well-versed in the impact of various convictions. Our employment lawyers are able to tie this information together to effectively analyze this process. Our experienced attorneys practice throughout the New York and New Jersey metro-area, including but not limited to the following counties: New York City, Queens, Kings (Brooklyn), Long Island, Bergen, Hudson and more. The lawyers at Heiferman & Associates are available by appointment in the office, as well as Zoom, MS Teams, Google and more. Please contact us today at (718) 888-9545 to schedule a consultation.

New York Court System Requires Masks Again Effective August 13, 2021

The New York State Courts Administrative Judge recently revised mask-wearing guidance for NY Courts. New York State is currently listed as an area of substantial or high transmission of COVID-19. The CDC stated that vaccinated individuals should be wearing masks or face coverings indoors, in public areas. Until further notice, several programs permitting court users to appear without masks are suspended, regardless of vaccination status.

Judges and non-judicial staff with orange cards may continue to enter courts/facilities without undergoing a temperature screening and continue to be exempt from the daily COVID Self-Assessment. All other court users. including green card holders, must have their temperature taken and undergo the COVID screening before entry. This applies to New York State Courts ONLY, not Federal Courts or other states.

The full mandate can be found at the following link: https://s3.amazonaws.com/membercentralcdn/sitedocuments/brook/brook/0999/188499.pdf?

If you have a question about Court policies or other legal issues, the civil and immigration attorneys as well as our criminal defense attorneys are here to assist. The lawyers at Heiferman & Associates are available by appointment in the office, as well as Zoom, MS Teams, Google and more. Please contact us today at (718) 866-4627 to schedule a consultation.

ADJUSTMENT OF STATUS (GREEN CARDS) FOR TPS HOLDERS AFTER SUPREME COURT RULING IN SANCHEZ V. MAYORKAS

On June 7, 2021, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Sanchez v. Mayorkas. In this case, the Supreme Court held a grant of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) was not an admission to the United States. An admission is a lawful entry to the U.S for purposes of adjustment of status. This means that any TPS recipients who entered the U.S without inspection (illegal crossing), can not use the TPS as an entry for Green Card purposes. So, even with a legal entry, an applicant will be barred from adjusting status for working without authorization . Additionally, an applicant will barred for failing to continuously maintain lawful status since the last entry into the U.S. It is important to understand the Supreme Court’s decision does not effect all TPS holders. It only affects TPS holders who did not enter the U.S. lawfully.

The immigration attorneys at Heiferman & Associates are here to assist individuals who qualify with applying for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Our immigration lawyers can also advise clients whether or not this case applies to their situation. Our lawyers also assist clients with applying for most visas, green cards and citizenship. We defend clients in Immigration Court and with appeals. We are available by appointment, Zoom, Teams, Google and more. Please contact us today at (718) 866-4627 to schedule an initial consultation.

U.S. Department of State Extends COVID-Related National Interest Exemptions (NIE) for Travelers Subject to Presidential Proclamations

On June 29, 2021, the U.S. Department of State extended National Interest Exceptions (NIE). This applies to travelers subject to Presidential Proclamations (PPs). These include PPs: 9984, 9992, 10143, 10199, and others related to the spread of COVID-19. Unless otherwise stated, NIEs are valid for 12 months from the date of approval. NIE’s are valid for multiple entries, if used for the intended purpose. This extension applies to travelers subject to these proclamations due to presence in China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, the Schengen area, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and India with currently approved NIEs or NIE’s granted in conjunction with a visa application. Most of these PP’s date back to 2020.

Travelers should contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate before traveling, if they were not previously approved for a NIE and have a valid visa in the appropriate class or have a valid ESTA authorization for travel under the Visa Waiver Program and seek to travel for purposes consistent with ESTA authorization. If approved, they may travel on either a valid visa or ESTA authorization. Each approved NIE is valid for 12 months from the date of approval. The NIE may be used to travel to the United States multiple times for the intended purpose. The 12 month and multiple entry extensions applies retroactively to all existing NIEs approved in the last 12 months. Travelers approved for an NIE may travel to the United States using their existing NIE if it was approved in the last 12 months and if the purpose of travel is the same as the purpose for which it was granted. Travelers who need visas and who believe their travel to be in the United States’ national interest should review the website of the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for instructions. More information may be found on the U.S. Department of States website at: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/extension-validity-for-nies-for-china-iran-brazil-south-africa-schengen-uk-ireland-india.html

The immigration attorneys at Heiferman & Associates have successfully obtained National Interest Exemptions. Additionally, we applied for them before multiple US Embassies in foreign countries. Our immigration lawyers also assist clients with applying for most visas, green cards and citizenship. We defend clients in Immigration Court and with appeals. We are available by appointment, Zoom, Teams, Google and more. Please contact us today at (718) 888-9545 to schedule an initial consultation.

USCIS Changes Their Voting Policy Regarding Naturalization (Citizenship) Eligibility

Recently, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) updated their voting policy. Only U.S. Citizens are allowed to vote in a federal election. At times, green card holders accidentally registered to vote through the department of motor vehicles or other government agency. Some drivers license forms also have boxes that ask if you want to vote. Green Card holders are not allowed to vote in federal elections. Improper voting may affect an applicant’s good moral character (GMC) determination when petitioning for citizenship. At times, green card holders were denied citizenship because they registered to vote or voted in a federal election. Many of them, did not know they had even registered. This change will reduce the denials of citizenship, which is great news!

If you accidentally registered to vote or voted in a federal election, our immigration lawyers can help. The most important thing to do is deregister ASAP! You also need to get a copy of your voting record. The immigration lawyers at Heiferman & Associates are here to assist with your citizenship needs. Our immigration attorneys guide clients step by step through this process. Our immigration attorneys are able to sue the government for individuals improperly denied citizenship and visas. We also assist individuals denied citizenship with appeals. If your citizenship has been denied, you have to act quickly, otherwise you may have wait another 5 years.

If you or a family member needs assistance with a denial of citizenship, the experienced immigration lawyers at Heiferman & Associates can help. We assist clients with applying for most visas, green cards, as well as defend clients in Immigration Court. Please contact us today at (718) 888-9545 to schedule an initial consultation with one of our experienced immigration attorneys. Consultations are available by appointment, Zoom, Teams, Google and more.

The Importance of Properly Filed Taxes for Marriage-Based Green Card and Citizenship Applications

At times, the immigration attorneys at Heiferman & Associates see tax returns with errors. These errors can negatively affect marriage-based immigration applications. Tax returns for Green card or citizenship applicants based on marriage, usually should check the box “married filing jointly”. Sometimes individuals incorrectly claim head of household. By claiming head of household, tax filers may get larger tax returns, though, the filer may not qualify for that status. This is why it is so important to have your taxes prepared by a CPA or other licensed tax preparer.

The immigration lawyers at Heiferman & Associates thoroughly review clients’ taxes to spot errors. It may be possible to amend old taxes, if head of household was claimed in error. This may lead to the client owing money to the IRS; other times they may be entitled to a tax refund. If a person is unable to pay the debt, they may be able to do a payment plan with the IRS. If someone else prepares your taxes, they should sign the preparer section of the return. If that person does not sign that section, it may mean they might not be a licensed professional. Our immigration attorneys thoroughly review taxes to spot errors.

Incorrectly claiming head of household could subject you to serious tax fraud accusations. Justin Heiferman is a former accountant, prosecutor of tax crimes and has defended clients accused of serious tax crimes. Our criminal defense attorneys can assist with preventing problems before they happen. Additionally, our New York City immigration law firm regularly assists clients in applying for marriage-based visas, green cards and citizenship. 

If you or a family member needs assistance with applying for a visa or Green Card, the experienced immigration team at Heiferman & Associates is ready to help. Please contact us today at (718) 888-9545 to schedule an initial consultation with one of our experienced immigration attorneys. We are able to do consultations in our office by appointment as well as by Zoom, Google and more. 

Sealing and Expungement of Criminal Records

Don’t let past mistakes prevent future success. The criminal defense lawyers at Heiferman & Associates are here to help. Certain people with criminal records may be able seal up to 2 criminal convictions in New York. If you have no more than two misdemeanor convictions or one felony and one misdemeanor conviction, you may be eligible to have those convictions sealed. The sealing of records will make these convictions invisible to most potential employers. It is also possible to expunge records in New Jersey.

The criminal defense lawyers at Heiferman & Associates are experienced with sealing and expunging in both states. Several years ago, New York State passed a law that allows people with certain criminal convictions to seal these records after ten years. The ten-year period starts from the date of conviction or release from prison, whichever is later. You cannot have had any new criminal convictions or have a current criminal case pending. If you have more than 2 convictions, you may still be eligible if your convictions are related to the same one or two incidents. For example, if you were charged and convicted of multiple crimes during one incident, the court may treat multiple convictions as one conviction. While this may sound complicated, our experienced criminal defense lawyers will make the process easy.

The criminal defense attorneys at Heiferman & Associates have successfully sealed/expunged major felonies including sale of controlled substances, burglary, DWI (driving while intoxicated) and more. Don’t let a past mistake get in your way. With a clean record, people will be able to pass background checks for employment. Our criminal defense lawyers have successfully assisted numerous clients seal records in New York (We also have helped clients expunge records in New Jersey). These successes include both felony and misdemeanor convictions. If you or someone you know has a criminal conviction that is more than 10-years old, we might be able to help seal (NY) or expunge (NJ) your criminal record. Contact us today at (718) 888-9545 for a consultation.