Monthly Archives: November 2009

As of November 20, 2009 USCIS received 56,900 H-1B Petitions

According to the most recent H-1B report from the USCIS, it has approved sufficient H-1B petitions for aliens with advanced degrees to meet the exemption of 20,000 from the fiscal year 2010 cap. Any H-1B petitions filed on behalf of an alien with an advanced degree will now count toward the general H-1B cap of 65,000. USCIS will continue to accept both cap-subject petitions and advanced degree petitions until a sufficient number of H-1B petitions have been received to reach the statutory limits, taking into account the fact that some of these petitions may be denied, revoked, or withdrawn. Employers and immigration lawyers are urged to file their H-1B petitions as soon as possible to fall within the annual cap.

Evita Tolu – Immigration Attorney
9378 Olive Blvd., Ste. 325
St. Louis, MO 63132

314-872-3988 telephone
314-872-9556 fax


Immigration Attorney Evita Tolu says planning your immigration strategy is as important as planning your wedding.

If you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, and you are engaged or already married to a citizen of another country, that person may be eligible for a green card. However, many people believe, wrongly, that they can just bring their fiancé or spouse to the United States and the immigrant will be given an instant green card or even U.S. citizenship — a belief that has led to sad cases of people being sent right home again.

Your fiancé or spouse will have to go through a multi-step application process. It’s your job to start the process, by submitting either a fiancé visa petition (only available if you’re a U.S. citizen, but can be used whether you are already married or just engaged) or an immigrant visa petition. Your fiancé or spouse can’t enter the U.S. until both the petition and subsequent applications have been approved.

Note: If you’re not yet a U.S. citizen, but have U.S. permanent residence (a “green card”), you cannot bring your fiancé to the United States until you’re married — and even then, you can bring your spouse only after he or she spends some years on a waiting list.

No matter what, be prepared for a long wait. Every type of visa application involves several stages, including application forms, a medical examination, fingerprinting, and various approvals.

Don’t misuse a tourist visa or other temporary visa. If the immigrant used a tourist or other visa to get to the U.S. for the primary purpose of getting married or applying for a green card, see an attorney. The immigrant could be found liable for visa fraud, and denied the green card as a result.

Eligibility for Various Visas
The requirements for the fiancé visa and the marriage visa are different.

Fiancé Visas
To qualify for a fiancé visa, the immigrant must:

intend to marry a U.S. citizen
have met the citizen in person within the last two years, and
be legally able to marry.
Also, the immigrant must be coming from another country — a fiancé visa won’t be given to someone who is already in the United States.

As part of the fiancé visa application process, you’ll have to prove your intention to marry, by providing documents such as copies of your love letters, phone bills, and wedding ceremony contracts. You’ll also have to prove that you’ve met within the last two years, by submitting copies of plane tickets, hotel bills, and more.

This meeting requirement causes problems for many couples. If you simply can’t afford to meet, the immigration authorities will say, “Tough luck.” If, however, you haven’t met because of proven cultural customs or extreme hardship to the U.S. citizen spouse, they may be willing to lift the meeting requirement in for you.

Marriage-Based Visas (Green Cards)
To be eligible for an immigrant visa, or green card, based on marriage, the immigrant must be:

legally married (it doesn’t matter in what country) to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
not married to someone else at the same time, and
not married to someone who has another wife or husband.
Also, the marriage must be the real thing, not just a sham to get a green card.

Within the application process, you’ll have to prove all of the above things. Legal marriage is usually the easiest to prove, by simply providing a copy of your marriage certificate — though people who get married outside the United States sometimes have a little trouble, because USCIS usually demands that the certificate come from a government office, rather than a church, a ship’s captain, or other nongovernmental place.

To show that the marriage is the real thing, you’ll have to provide copies of documents such as joint bank statements, children’s birth certificates, photos of the wedding and afterwards, love letters, and more.

To qualify for any type of visa, every immigrant must show that he or she is not “inadmissible” (for instance, has a long criminal record or a communicable disease like tuberculosis).

Overview of Application Process
How and where the immigrant applies for a green card depends on a number of factors, including who he or she is marrying, where the immigrant is now, and, if he or she is in the United States, whether he or she got there legally. For details on these matters, and help completing the application forms, assembling the appropriate documents, and having a successful interview, see

Evita Tolu, Immigration Attorney
Stientjes & Tolu LLC – Immigration Law Firm
9378 Olive Blvd., Ste. 325
St. Louis, MO 63132
314-872-3988 telephone

© 2009 Nolo

U.S. Immigration Attorney: Top Ten Tips for Avoiding Trouble

Immigration Attorney advice to keep your status secure and your visa and green card applications moving along smoothly by following these immigration tips.

1. Plan for delays. If you are in the United States and your work permit or status needs to be renewed, realize that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS, formerly called the INS) is extremely backed up. Cope by turning in your application far in advance. This is particularly important if your legal status has an expiration date on it. If you fall out of status, the immigration authorities could arrest you.

2. Consider U.S. citizenship. If you have a green card, file for U.S. citizenship as soon as legally possible. This will not only protect you from deportation, but will also help you get a more secure status for your close family members. Most people have to wait five years after their green card approval before applying, but some people can apply sooner. For more information, see the USCIS website at

3. Avoid summary removal. When arriving in the U.S. from overseas, be ready to convince the border official that you deserve your entry visa. These officials have a lot of power and they can send you back if they think you are a security risk or that you lied in order to get the visa. Tourists should be careful not to pack anything that looks like they’re planning a permanent stay, such as a résumé or a wedding dress.

4.Notify USCIS of address changes. If you’re spending more than 30 days in the U.S., you must notify USCIS of your changes of address, within ten days. You and every member of your family must send separate notifications. You can do so either by mailing in Form AR-11 (available on the USCIS website), or better yet, through USCIS’s online change of address service. Also, be sure to send written word of your new address to every USCIS office that’s handling an application of yours — otherwise, the office might not hear of the change.

5. File multiple visa petitions. If you plan to get a green card through a family member, see if more than one member of your family is eligible to submit the visa petition for you. For example, a brother and a sister who are U.S. citizens could both file for you, as could a U.S. citizen spouse or parent. That way if the waiting list in one category gets especially long, or if one person dies, you’ll have another option.

6. Don’t be late. Be extremely careful to arrive on time for any scheduled appointment with the USCIS, a U.S. embassy or consulate, or the U.S. immigration court. Arriving late — or not at all — can result in months of delays at best, and deportation from the U.S. at worst.

7. Avoid visa violations. Make sure you understand the fine print surrounding your visa, work permit, or green card, and follow the rules carefully. Violating even minor terms of your visa or green card — for example, working while you’re here as a tourist or helping to smuggle a family member over the border — can result in your visa being canceled or you being deported.

8. Copy and track paperwork. USCIS is famous for losing paperwork. Send all applications and other material by certified mail, with a return receipt, and keep a copy. They’re not only your proof of filing, but may become the main copies in the USCIS files if the original is never found.

9. Do your research. Be careful who you accept advice from. Rumors and friends can’t be relied on — everyone’s legal situation is different. Even USCIS employees sometimes give out wrong advice, for which you pay the consequences. Do your own research where possible, and if necessary take your unanswered questions to an immigration attorney or accredited representative whose reputation you’ve checked out.

10. Get help from above. If nothing else is working, contact your U.S. congressperson. They can usually make an inquiry for you, which often encourages the USCIS or consulate into taking appropriate action.

Evita Tolu, Immigration Attorney
Stientjes & Tolu LLC – Immigration Law Firm
9378 Olive Blvd., Ste. 325
St. Louis, MO 63132
314-872-3988 telephone

© 2009 Nolo

Entering the U.S.: What to Expect at the Airport or Border

Entering the U.S. may not be easy, even when you have a valid visa in hand says Evita Tolu, a Missouri Immigration Attorney.

The first person you meet on arrival in the United States — whether you come by air, land, or sea — will be an officer of Customs and Border Protection, or CBP. The officer will inspect your passport and documents, looking for verification that you’ve been given permission to enter the U.S., as well as any information that might prevent you from doing so. Have all your visa paperwork ready.

CBP officers are trained to be skeptical. Security is their first concern, and you may encounter delays as your name is checked against various computer databases. The officers are also on the lookout for people who might be using a tourist or nonimmigrant visa to gain entry to the United States for a permanent stay. Even if your visa and intentions are valid, if the officer finds a problem or believes you’re lying, you can be refused entry at the border, returned to your home country, and prohibited from returning for five years.

Be Prepared for Questions
Here are the most likely questions you’ll have to answer. However, the officer is free to ask you just about any question. You’ll increase your chances of being treated with respect by remaining polite and calm.

Why are you visiting the United States? Your answer must match your visa. If, for example, you have a visitor visa but say that you’re coming to find a job, you’ll be put on the next flight or bus home. Your answer must also show that you don’t plan to violate any U.S. laws.

Where will you be staying? The officer wants to know that you have clear plans for what you will be doing in the United States. If you have no previously arranged places to stay, the officer might question whether you should be allowed in.

Who will you be visiting? Again, the officer is looking to see that you have clear — and legal — plans.

How long will you be staying? The officer wants to know that you don’t plan to stay longer than you should. Even if your visa says “multiple entry” or “one year,” you may not be allowed to remain for that length of time — the little I-94 card you’re given by the officer will tell you the date by which you must leave.

How much money are you bringing? The officer wants to know that you will be able to cover your expenses in the United States.

Have you visited the United States before, and if so, did you remain longer than you were supposed to? If you have previously stayed in the United States for six months longer than you were allowed, you are not eligible to come to the United States again without special permission (unless you’ve waited outside the United States for at least three years). If your overstay lasted a full year, you’re expected to remain outside the U.S. for ten years before trying to return.

How often do you come to the United States? The officer is looking to see whether you are using nonimmigrant visas as a way of living in the United States — in which case you’ll be accused of misusing your visa and be denied entry.

Know Your (Lack of) Rights
Foreign nationals attempting to come to the United States, either temporarily or permanently, have very few rights during the application and screening process. You cannot have a lawyer represent you when you attempt to enter the U.S., nor are you allowed to call one if problems occur during your interrogation. Your bags can be searched without your permission, and CBP officials can ask you almost any question.

Only in rare cases, such as if you feared persecution in your home country, will you be allowed to appear before an immigration judge to prove that you should be allowed into the United States.

Be Prepared for a Luggage Search
The border official may also check your suitcases and personal possessions, so:

Make sure nothing that you bring appears to contradict your visa status. If you are coming as a tourist, don’t bring along a book on how to immigrate to the United States or a stack of résumés. You might have these things simply because you have future plans to apply for immigration, but the CBP won’t see it that way.

Do not bring illegal or questionable items. It may be legal in your country to carry a firearm (a gun), but it is not legal to bring it into the United States — and if you have one in your luggage, it could lead to your immediate removal. Make sure you are not carrying other illegal or questionable items, such as illegal drugs, pornography, or plants, fruits, and animals of types or species that are not allowed into the United States.

Evita Tolu, Immigration Attorney
Stientjes & Tolu LLC – Immigration Law Firm9378 Olive Blvd., Ste. 325
St. Louis, MO 63132
314-872-3988 telephone

© 2009 Nolo


Beginning on January 4, 2010 HIV is no longer going to be a ground of inadmissibility says St. Louis Immigration Attorney, Evita Tolu. For a long time under Section 212(a)(1)(A)(i) of the INA, aliens with HIV were inadmissible to the United States. On November 2, 2009, the Department of Health and Human Services removed HIV from the list of the communicable diseases of public health significance.

The main beneficiaries of the new rule are aliens who are eligible for lawful permanent residence but for their HIV status, and those aliens who do not have a qualifying relative for an HIV waiver. Beneficiaries of approved I-140 Petitions, winners of the Diversity Lottery, siblings of the United States citizens and adult, married sons and daughters of the United States citizens are the main beneficiaries of the new rule.

Family based applicants. Siblings of United States citizens, as well as adult married sons and daughters who received prior denials for lack of qualifying relative for an HIV waiver are able to reapply after January 4, 2010, provided they are still eligible to apply for lawful permanent resident status.

Employment based applicants. Beneficiaries of the approved I-140 whose applications for green card on Form I-485 were denied for lack of a qualifying relative or their HIV waiver applications were denied may reapply after January 4, 2010 assuming they are still eligible to apply for lawful permanent resident status.

Diversity visa lottery. Recent diversity visa lottery applicants with a prior denial on the grounds of an HIV status are not eligible to reapply because their applications for lawful permanent resident status must have been approved by the end of the relevant fiscal year.

Public charge and HIV issues.
Currently HIV applicants gaining admission to the United States must show that U.S. government will not incur any HIV and/or treatment related expenses after admittance of the alien into the United States. Aliens must show proof of having private health insurance. After January 4, 2010 no such proof will be required. This does not mean, however, that a United States consulate abroad will not scrutinize the HIV status closely for public charge determination. Similarly, USCIS will deny an adjustment of status applicationif a U.S. based applicant has been sick for a while or spent too much time in a nursing facility and is not able to take care of himself.

Evita Tolu, Immigration Attorney
Stientjes & Tolu LLC – Immigration Law Firm
9378 Olive Blvd., Ste. 325
St. Louis, MO 63132
314-872-3988 telephone


Missouri immigration attorney, Evita Tolu, on a regular basis checks whether her clients comply with the USCIS Form A-11 requirements. Since September 11, 2001 the USCIS requires all foreign nationals present in the United States (non-immigrant visa holders and lawful permanent residents) to inform the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service of any changes in their address within 10 days of the move.  This requirement applies to aliens who remain in the United States for more than 30 days. 

Failure to provide the notice of address change is  a misdemeanor.  Aliens can be fined up to $200 or imprisoned up to 30 days, or a combination of both.  In certain cases, aliens may also be deported from the United States per INA § 266(b). The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement  runs a “Special Registration” program which requires individuals from certain countries to go through additional security procedures in order to confirm their change of address while in the United States. 

Form A-11 must be sent to the following address:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
PO Box 7134
London, KY 40742-7134

You can also submitt this form on line at

Evita Tolu
Missouri Immigration Attorney
9378 Olive Blvd., Ste. 325
St. Louis, MO 63132