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Kentucky Immigration Law Blog

Determining visa availability

As you think about the process that prepared you to come to Louisville from your country of origin, you likely remember that one of the criteria to qualify for your visa was to have the intention of one day returning home. Yet like many of those that we here at the Vickerstaff Law Office, PSC have worked with, you may have come to view the U.S. as your new home. Now, as you get ready apply for an adjustment of status, one of the elements that you must consider is whether there is a visa available in your immigrant category. 

According to U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services, there is no limit placed on the number of visas available to those who are the immediate family members of current U.S. citizens. Thus, you do not have to worry about visa availability if your spouse, parents or children (who are 21 years of age or older) are citizens. You can also qualify as an immediate family member if you are the widow or widower of U.S. citizen, provided that your spouse filed for an adjustment to your status before he or she died, or you file for it within two years of his or her death. 

Can I seek asylum in the United States?

If you are in Kentucky and seeking protection from the United States due to persecution elsewhere, or fearing persecution, based on one or more categories of eligibility, you may be able to successfully apply for asylum. You may receive asylum if you are in danger of persecution based on your political opinion, race, nationality, social group membership or religion.

There is no application fee for filing for asylum. If you prevail, asylum can allow you to remain in the United States even if not otherwise eligible to remain.

The ongoing battle over Louisville sanctuary city status

Ever since Cincinnati declared itself a sanctuary city in January 2017, Greg Fischer, mayor of Louisville, Kentucky, has been under pressure to do likewise. As reported in the Courier Journal, activist groups favoring the expansion of Louisville’s friendly policies toward undocumented immigrants have been demonstrating for months. They want Mayor Fischer and the Metro Council to do more to aid and protect these immigrants.

Reports continue to circulate that Louisville law enforcement officers are helping U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in their efforts to find immigrants who are illegally living in the city. The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting says that local officers assisted ICE agents at least 24 times in the first six months of 2017.

Understanding dual citizenship

For many of those who have immigrated to Louisville or other parts of the U.S., the ultimate goal is to become American citizens. Their decision to do so, however, may not necessarily mean that they also want to renounce their natural ties to their countries of origin. Being a dual citizen of two countries does have its advantages, with those being the ability to travel easily between the two nations, and to enjoy access to the social service programs of both. This begs the question of how can one earn dual citizenship

Half of that problem is already solved; one retains citizenship of his or her country of origin unless he or she expressly renounces it. There are several ways to acquire dual citizenship in the U.S., including: 

  • Being born outside of the country to one parent of a different nationality and another who is a U.S. citizen
  • Completing the naturalization process in the U.S. while choosing to also maintain citizenship to one's home country
  • Being born in the U.S. to immigrant parents

Has the government stoked an interest in your marriage?

If someone in Kentucky (or anywhere, for that matter) were to ask you why you married your spouse, you may have many different answers. Perhaps it was the way he or she made you feel comfortable, like you could be yourself and not worry about impressions. Maybe it was a great sense of humor, compassionate heart or strong work ethic that attracted you, or any combination of these or other attributes. What if an official immigration officer suspects that the only reason you got married was to obtain a green card?

While that may sound shocking and offensive to you, there are people who do such things -- fraudulently marry others for the purpose of adjusting their statuses. So, how are you to convince the United States government that you are not one of those people?

Asylum and refugee status

The refugee and asylum application processes can be complex and time-consuming, but they are effective means to protect many immigrants from unsafe situations.  According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, refugees are people who seek entrance into the United States in order to avoid persecution in their homeland. The state of Kentucky in particular is welcoming to those who seek shelter from harm.

Asylees fall under the category of refugees, but they must already be within the United States (or at the border) when applying for protection. The American Immigration Council states that an asylum application could be defensive, meaning the applicant is seeking exception from a deportation order, or it could be affirmative, in which the applicant is not currently under orders to be deported. In some cases, if a person is encountered near the country's border, an officer within the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services department may then conduct an interview in order to determine if the immigrant has credible or reasonable fear of returning to his or her country. If it is determined that this fear legitimately exists, that person may then receive asylum.

Reviewing the Immigration and Nationality Act

The United States has long been the preferred destination of millions from around the world seeking opportunities to better theirs and their families' circumstances. However, the immigration history of the U.S. has long been influenced by different policies and trends that have contributed to cultural makeup both in Louisville and the rest of the country. The federal government took significant steps to curb those influences by signing the Immigration and Nationality Act into law in 1965. 

Prior to the enactment of the Act, national origin quotas on immigrants had been in place since the 1920s. These heavily favored immigrants from Western and Northern Europe. According to the Migration Policy Institute, the 1965 legislation capped the number of visas allowed to immigrants from the Eastern Hemisphere at 170,000 per year, and immigrants from the Western Hemisphere at 120,000. Additionally, it limited the number of visas available to people from Eastern Hemisphere countries to no more 20,000 per country (the same standard was applied to Western Hemisphere countries in 1978). The worldwide visa cap has since been extended to 480,000 for those in family-based admission categories (with immediate relatives of U.S. citizens being exempt), and 140,000 for those in employment-based admission categories. 

The daca program, kentucky and hope for the future

At the center of America's highly debated topics lies the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program. After the Trump administration's confirmation earlier this year that the DACA Program would begin phasing out, countless Kentucky residents fear for what the future may mean for themselves and for their families. Thousands of these "Dreamers" have called America home for their entire lives, and for this reason, organizations nationwide have stepped up to the fight for immigration rights in the country. 

While the fight for protection of the immigration community continues, the termination of the DACA Program has, unfortunately, affected many. Just last August, USA Today reported on the devastating incident in which immigration officers seized a young Kentucky mother and held her for deportation. Held at four different locations and having eventually landed at a jail outside Chicago, the mother is, in fact, a legal immigrant through the DACA program. But despite this fact, it appears that officials have retroactively applied the program's termination to thousands of immigrants, as well as begun deporting undocumented immigrants with no previous criminal records. 

Non-U.S. citizens can get a valid Kentucky drivers license

According to ABC News, roads in the United States have plenty of unlicensed drivers operating vehicles on them. The reason may be that the penalty when convicted of doing so is often fairly benign, such as a small fine, at least for a first offense. This leniency may encourage some to not bother with the license or to drive even if they cannot secure a license legally.

However, many non-U.S. citizens believe it is important to follow the licensing laws in Kentucky while they are here, particularly if they plan on becoming U.S. citizens or permanent residents in the future. The Commonwealth of Kentucky states that residents or visitors to Kentucky who are not U.S. citizens nor legal permanent residents, who wish to drive, have opportunity to do so.

What's the point of a points-based visa system?

As a prospective immigrant who wants to enter Kentucky or another location in the United States in the hope of securing a better life for yourself and your family, you're likely already aware that the process may be complicated and stressful. If you follow current event news, you may have also heard that the entire immigration process is undergoing an overhaul since the new presidential administration took office. A main topic of consideration has to do with the visa program.

Word has it that the entire system is going to become a points-based contest. You may or may not be happy about that expected change. There are obviously different types of visas, and your chances of obtaining one may increase or decrease with a new system, depending on the details of your particular situation.