Thursday, January 27, 2011

What You and Your Interpreter Need to Know - 6 Suggestions for a Smoother Immigration Interview

Interpreters play an important role in our immigration system.  Unlike the Immigration Court where a professional interpreter is supplied by the Court, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) does not provide an interpreter for immigration interviews such as for an adjustment of status or naturalization interview.  An applicant before USCIS, who needs interpretation, needs to supply his or her own. 

As I came to find out some time ago when talking with a professional interpreter, there's actually a difference between a "translator" and an "interpreter".  Here's the difference: an interpreter is a person who interprets orally from one language to another, whereas a translator translates written material from one language to another. 

Although a professional interpreter is always recommended, financial considerations many times trump this recommendation.  Most clients who need an interpreter for an interview before USCIS bring a friend or neighbor.  This is not always a good thing.  When considering which friend or neighbor to ask, look for:

  • A person who is not a family member. Family members have a vested interested in your success (at least one would hope). They're not really the most impartial people we can find. Officers know that, and it may affect your credibility. 
  • A person you can trust.  You want someone that can keep your personal information in confidence. Interviews can expose very personal and potentially embarrassing information that are best kept "in-house". 
  • A person that will be on time and has all day to spare.  Just like interviews can start right on time, interviews can take much longer than anticipated.  You want to bring a person that can be at the USCIS district office on time and can afford to stay all day.  If you're called in for your interview at 2 p.m. and your interpreter needs to pick up her children by 2:30 p.m., I guarantee you she will prefer to pick up her children.  I don't blame her.
  • A person that can speak better English than you. An applicant wants to make sure that the person they bring has a good command of both English and their native language. 
  • A person who is in the United States lawfully and has no criminal record.   This should go without saying, but, bringing an interpreter to your interview who is not in the country lawfully or has pending matters before the same office, is not really a good idea. You want to bring an interpreter who is a U.S. citizen who has no outstanding criminal matters because it might affect not only his credibility, but yours. If not a U.S. citizen, bring a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR).  Every state has a case information system.  For example, Virginia has a Case Status and Information page where one can look up a person's record.  Give it a shot and see what you find. 
  • A person who is not a "notario" or immigration consultant.  Use one at your own risk.  The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) created a new consumer website providing information and resources to immigrants to avoid being defrauded by a notario, and where to get help if they are harmed. 
Below are some suggestions for the interpreters helping out a friend or neighbor.  I understand that interpreters might have a handful of suggestions for us attorneys.  If you have suggestions, please contact me and we might have you as a guest on our blog.
  • Plan ahead.  Traffic jams, getting lost, and delays at the security counter are common. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the USCIS office and plan to stay there for at least 2-3 hours. You might end up being there for 30 minutes but things could get delayed.  Also, bring your driver's license or ID with you. The interviewing officer will make a copy of the ID and keep it in the file
  • Legal advice is best left to the attorney.  Your experiences or the experiences of others may or may not apply to the case at hand.   Avoid suggesting an answer to a particular question or coaching the person in matters that you may not be qualified in.
  • Ask for a copy of the forms submitted (or at least blank ones) to review them before the interview.  Some of the questions can be long, complicated, and right out confusing.  Reviewing the questions beforehand will give you a pretty good idea what the officer will be asking. 
  • Begin interpreting as soon as the officer begins speaking.  Don't wait for the adjudicating officer to give you a green light. Begin interpreting as soon as the officer speaks. If there's something you don't understand, kindly ask the officer to repeat himself.     
  • At the interview, avoid having side conversations. The officer might think you're coaching him or her or giving them "the answer".   
  • Remember you're under oath.  Interpret faithfully what is being said.
Most interviews don't take more than 30 minutes - so relax.  If you're helping out a friend or a neighbor, you're doing a good thing.  Yours is an important responsibility that you have to take seriously if the interview will go smoothly.  Keep these suggestions in mind and you'll do fine. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

BALCA's "Matter of Sanmina-SCI Corporation": Clarifying the "Employee Referral Program" recruitment step under PERM

In Matter of Sanmina-SCI Corporation the Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals (BALCA) found that in order to make the employee referral program recruitment step meaningful, an employer must minimally be able to document that:
  • Its employee referral program offers incentives to employees for referral of candidates;
  • That the employee referral program was in effect during the recruitment effort the employer is relying on to support its labor certification application; and 
  • That the Employer’s employees were on notice of the job opening at issue. 
In this case the employer, Sanmina-SCI Corporation, filed an Application for Permanent Employment Certification on behalf of a foreign national for the position of Software Applications Engineer.  Following an audit, the Certifying Officer denied certification on the grounds that:
  • The Employer's Notice of Filing was only posted for nine consecutive business days because one of the posting days was Columbus Day;
  • The Employer failed to provide adequate documentation of its employees referral program with incentives. 
BALCA vacated the denial based on the Notice of Filing ground and remanded the case to permit the Employer an opportunity to present evidence as to whether Columbus Day for the Employer was a "business day" consistent with Il Cortile Restaurant, 2010-PER-683 (Oct. 12, 2010).  In Il Cortile Restaurant BALCA held that, for purposes of the Notice of Filing requirement, a "business day" is any day that the employees are working on the premises and can see the Notice of Filing. 

BALCA in this case also reversed the CO's finding that the Employer had not adequately documented its use of an employee referral program with incentives. In its reasoning BALCA held that the Employer's documentation was adequate to fulfill the required elements in that the Employer established that it had an employee referral program with incentives, that the program was ongoing during the recruitment for the position at issue, and that the job was advertised within the company. 

BALCA is the administrative appellate body within the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) consisting of administrative law judges assigned to labor certification matters. As way of background, a permanent labor certification issued by the Department of Labor (DOL) allows an employer to hire a foreign worker to work permanently in the United States. In most instances, before the U.S. employer can submit an immigration petition to the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the employer must obtain an approved labor certification request from the DOL's Employment and Training Administration (ETA). More specifically, the DOL's Office of Foreign Labor Certification  (within the ETA) must certify to the USCIS that there are no qualified U.S. workers able, willing, qualified and available to accept the job at the prevailing wage for that occupation in the area of intended employment and that employment of the foreign national will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.

To review previous decisions, visit BALCA's Digest of PERM Decisions.  DOL's Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) also has a lot of information about the permanent labor certification process under their Program for Electronic Review Management or PERM. This includes: Policies and Regulations, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), Forms and Instructions, along with other useful information. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

USCIS and Immigration Court Closings Due to Inclement Weather

From time to time inclement weather forces the closing of government offices, including offices of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR).  When that happens, it's important to know where to go or who to call to ensure an applicant is not missing an important scheduled hearing or interview. 

Here are some suggestions applicants can follow if they have an appointment scheduled with USCIS and they want to verify that the office is open for business and to obtain further instructions on rescheduling the appointment if the office is closed.
If an individual has an immigration hearing scheduled before an immigration court of the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), here are some recommendations to verify that the office is open for business. Not attending a scheduled hearing can have grave consequences.  Check ahead with more than one source to make sure.
Needless to say applicants should be contacting their attorney if they have one.  If the attorney doesn't know whether the office is open for business, let the attorney know where to obtain the information and bill them for your time.  

Monday, January 10, 2011

Requesting Return of Original Documents from USCIS

Applicants should not submit original documents to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in support of an application or petition. If original documents such as passports or birth and marriage records were submitted however, USCIS provides a way to get those documents back.  To request that an original document be returned, Form G-884 should be submitted.

A few things to keep in mind when submitting the application:  
  • The application requires a notarized signature;
  • A copy of two identity documents must also be submitted;
  • No filing fee is required; and
  • The application should be filed with the USCIS office or service center that is currently processing the case, or, if a final decision has been issued, Form G-884 should be submitted to the USCIS office or service center that took the last action on the case.  The name and address of the USCIS office that adjudicated or is adjudicating the case will normally be on the bottom left-hand corner of the latest Notice of Action or receipt notice.
Additionally, be sure to specify what documents are specifically being requested along with any additional information that might assist USCIS in locating the file and the specific document requested. If requesting documents from a file not relating directly to the applicant, additional documents such as proof of the relationship or a power of attorney may be required.  

On a different post we will cover the benefits and the how to's of obtaining a copy of an applicant's "A-File" from USCIS through the use of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on Form G-639.  

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The 112th Congress and what Naturalization Applicants Need to Re-Learn

As the members of the 112th Congress go about taking care of the business of the American people, there are a few things that naturalization applicants need to know as they prepare for their interview.  Due to the recent elections, some civics test answers will change.  More specifically, applicants should check the answers to questions 20, 23, 43, and 47 prior to their interview. The answers to the first three questions may vary depending on where the applicant lives. 
  • Question #20: “Who is one of your state’s U.S. Senators now?”  The U.S. Constitution provides for two Senators from each state for a total of 100 Senators.  Article I, Section 3, provides that "The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, chosen by the legislature thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote." To check the names of your U.S. Senators and much more information about them like where they stand on the issues that are important to you, visit the U.S. Senate's website (top right-hand corner under "Find Your U.S. Senators"). 
  • Question #23: “Name your U.S. Representative.” With at least 63 seats changing hands in this last election cycle, there are lots of new faces as the 112th Congress convenes.  To find your congressman, visit the U.S. House of Representative's website (top left-hand corner under "Find Your Representative"). Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution provides that "The House of Representatives shall be composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the several states, and the electors in each state shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislature."
  • Question #43: “Who is the Governor of your state now?".  The Governor is the chief executive of each state and is vested with considerable limited powers.  To find the governor for your state, visit the following link
  • Lastly, Question #47 asks "What is the name of the Speaker of the House of Representatives now?”  The correct answer is John Boehner.  Mr. Boehner represents the 8th District of Ohio.  View Speaker Boehner's remarks to the opening session of the 112th Congress
As you prepare for your interview, carefully review the study guides and other materials provided by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Be sure to also check out my previous post with interview preparation tips.