Heather Fathali's Blog

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Applied for the Diversity Lottery? Don’t forget to check your status!

Friday, June 17th, 2016 by Heather Fathali

DV-2017 Entrants are able to check their entry status as of May 3, 2016. Entrants may only check their status by entering their confirmation information at http://www.dvlottery.state.gov/ESC/; the U.S. government will not mail out a notice regarding an Entrant’s status, and embassies and consulates will not provide a list of selectees. DV-2017 Entrants should keep their confirmation number until at least September 30, 2017.

 

Posted in General |

Doing Business in the USA – June 9th Seminar – Register Now!

Thursday, May 12th, 2016 by Heather Fathali

 

DBusa16

Join us on June 9th for a fast paced guide to expanding your sales into the U.S. Whether opening a store front with a U.S. address or partnering with a distribution centre for your ecommerce activity, our seasoned cross-border lawyers, accountants, customs brokers and logistics professionals will present options that will help you determine your export strategy  and understand your responsibilities with government departments such as U.S. Customs and Border Protection and immigration.

Small and medium sized businesses in the export development planning stage who attend this event will:

Determine:

  • Optimal structure for your U.S. business presence
  • Cost effective distribution channels fit for your goods
  • Responsibility for Federal and State tax
  • What is considered ‘working’ in the U.S.

Understand:

  • Purchasing behaviour of U.S. consumers
  • Canadian export requirements
  • U.S. import compliance
  • Resources available to you

 

Event Type: In-class seminar

Date: June 9th, 2016

Time: 8:00 – 12:00 pm

Place:  Signature Sandman Hotel 8828 201 Street Langley, BC (Note:Access from 88th Ave.)

Fee: $75.00

Register here! 

 

 

 

Posted in General |

USCIS Proposed Filing Fee Increases – Open for Public Comment

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016 by Heather Fathali

Some very significant filing fee increases have been proposed by USCIS, now open for public comment in the Federal Register.

USCIS News Release:

“On May 4, 2016, USCIS published a notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register inviting public comment, for 60 days, on the proposed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Fee Schedule.

Title of Notice Type of Notice  Comment Period Expiration Date  FR Number 
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Fee Schedule 60-Day Notice  

07/05/2016

 

81 FR 26903

The Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990 requires USCIS to conduct fee reviews for the Immigration Examinations Fee Account (IEFA) on a biennial basis. The FY 2016/2017 biennial fee review indicates a 21 percent weighted average fee increase is necessary to ensure full cost recovery.

The IEFA represents approximately 94 percent of USCIS’ FY 2015 funding. The remaining funding comes from other fee accounts and a small discretionary appropriation.

USCIS has authority to set its IEFA fees at a level that recovers the full cost of providing adjudication and naturalization services. This includes the cost of providing similar services to asylum applicants or other immigrants without charge and any additional costs associated with the administration of the fees collected.

USCIS last adjusted its fees in November 2010, based on the FY 2010/2011 Fee Review.

To submit a comment, follow the instructions in the notice.

After the 60-day period, we will address the comments received and publish a final rule in the Federal Register.”

 

Posted in General |

Save the Date – Doing Business in the USA Seminar – June 9th

Monday, April 25th, 2016 by Heather Fathali

 

Save the date!

The next Doing Business in the USA trade seminar will be held June 9th at the Signature Sandman Hotel, in Langley, B.C. Co-sponsored by Cascadia Cross-Border Law, Pacific Customs Brokers and UCanTrade, Inc.; the half-day event will provide small to medium-sized businesses with advice on expanding sales in the U.S. Seasoned attorneys, accountants, customs brokers, and logistics professionals will explain your options and responsibilities when engaging in cross-border trade. Our presentation will of course focus on U.S. immigration and work authorization options.

Stay tuned- more details to come!

 

Posted in General |

IRS-Impersonation Telephone Scam

Friday, April 1st, 2016 by Heather Fathali

With tax season in full swing, a telephone scam has been targeting unsuspecting taxpayers, including noncitizens. Scammers impersonate IRS agents; making aggressive and often convincing phone calls, demanding that the subject owes the IRS money and that if payment is not made immediately the subject will be arrested or deported. The IRS does not pursue payment in this way.

The IRS has published the following advisory, available at https://www.irs.gov/uac/Tax-Scams-Consumer-Alerts:

IRS-Impersonation Telephone Scam

An aggressive and sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, has been making the rounds throughout the country. Callers claim to be employees of the IRS, but are not. These con artists can sound convincing when they call. They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. They may know a lot about their targets, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling. 

Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting. Or, victims may be told they have a refund due to try to trick them into sharing private information. If the phone isn’t answered, the scammers often leave an “urgent” callback request.

Note that the IRS will never: 1) call to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill; 2) demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe; 3) require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card; 4) ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone; or 5) threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

Posted in General |

“Lo Mein Loophole: How U.S. Immigration Law Fueled A Chinese Restaurant Boom”

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016 by Heather Fathali

From the finest dining, to hole-in-the wall gems, to dim sum, to classic take-out; our nation celebrates it all when it comes to Chinese food. Ever wonder how and why Chinese food became an all-American classic? According to Jennifer Lee, author of the Fortune Cookie Chronicles, there are “some forty thousand Chinese restaurants in the United States – more than the number of McDonalds, Burger Kings, and KFCs combined”!

In large part, it was actually our nation’s xenophobic anti-immigration policies of the 19th and early 20th centuries that sparked this delicious culinary wildfire. Maria Godoy of NPR reports on the fascinating history of an investment-based visa exception to the Chinese Exclusion Act, otherwise known as the “Lo Mein Loophole”:

http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/02/22/467113401/lo-mein-loophole-how-u-s-immigration-law-fueled-a-chinese-restaurant-boom

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Posted in General |

Don’t be Caught in the Backlog – Renew Your U.S. Passport Early!

Thursday, January 28th, 2016 by Heather Fathali

Have a U.S. passport expiring in 2016 or 2017? The State Department advises you start the renewal process ASAP to avoid backlogs in processing times. 2016-2017 marks the 10-year anniversary of WHTI, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which among other things required (for the first time) that U.S. citizens present a U.S. passport when departing or entering the U.S. for air travel within the Western Hemisphere. It also imposed restrictions on the acceptable documents for presentation at U.S. land and sea borders. WHTI resulted in a mad rush of U.S. passport applications, and, because U.S. passports are valid for 10 years, the Department of State now foresees a surge in upcoming renewals.

Depending on your circumstances, U.S. passports may be renewed by mail, in person, and from abroad. The Department of State offers a user-friendly website to assist in the process: https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/renew.html.

The New York Times offers a great report on the matter here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/31/travel/passport-renewal.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0

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Posted in General |

’Tis the Season… for Counterfeit Goods!

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015 by Heather Fathali

When many think of CBP – Customs and Border Protection – they immediately think of those who enforce our nation’s immigration laws at airports and along our borders.

But with the holidays upon us, it is a perfect time to highlight the fact that a huge amount of the work CBP does is focused on protecting the U.S. economy by facilitating lawful trade, including protecting our borders from dangerous and counterfeit goods.

In this day and age when so many of us complete our holiday shopping from the comfort of our living room couches, it is especially important to be aware of the scams and counterfeit products out there.

Along the U.S.-Canada border, online shopping has even more of a presence: many online retailers will not ship to Canada; so Canadian shoppers will establish U.S. mail boxes where their item can be shipped, typically in border communities where they can easily travel to pick up their item (note: this is not a problem as long as the proper customs declarations are made).

Aside from the obvious frustration that would accompany learning you have wasted your money on a counterfeit product or otherwise fallen victim to an online scam; CBP’s Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske explains the real threat such issues can pose not only to the U.S. economy, but also to the health of end users: “Counterfeit and pirated products threaten our economic security by hurting legitimate businesses who invest significant amounts of resources into protecting their brands. Even worse, these products often pose serious health and safety hazards to the people who buy and use them.  Counterfeit electronics can overheat due to improper manufacturing processes, and fake bicycle helmets can break upon impact. Phony cosmetics can lead to skin ailments, and even seasonal holiday lights can be poorly made, resulting in fires.”

Learn more about how to spot these items, and what to do if you think you have received a counterfeit item, at Commissioner Kerlikowske’s blog here: http://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/blog/tis-season-protect-yourself-holiday-counterfeiters

Posted in Heather Fathali |

The Department of State’s website for the 2017 Diversity Visa program (DV-2017) is now open!

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015 by Heather Fathali

The entry submission period for DV-2017 runs from October 1, 2015 to November 3, 2015. The entry form must be submitted during this period, and entries may only be submitted online at https://www.dvlottery.state.gov/.

Section 203(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides for a class of immigrants known as “diversity immigrants,” born in countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States. A limited number of diversity visas (DVs) are available each fiscal year, which traditionally begins on Oct. 1. The DVs are distributed among six geographic regions (Africa; Asia; Europe; North America; Oceania; and South America, Central America, and the Caribbean) and no single country may receive more than seven percent of the available DVs in any one year. Entrants are “chargeable” according their country of birth, not their current country of residence or citizenship. For example, if a person was born in Iran but is a citizen of Canada and resides in Canada, they remain chargeable to Iran for DV purposes; and may apply for the program despite the fact that Canada is not a DV country.

The U.S. Department of State provides a helpful step-by-step guidance on the program and how to submit an entry at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOQlh2d2EbQ&feature=youtu.be. Instructions are also available at http://travel.state.gov/content/dam/visas/Diversity-Visa/DV-Instructions-Translations/DV-2017-Instructions-Translations/DV-2017%20Instructions%20and%20FAQs.pdf.

DV-2017 Entrants will begin to be able to check their entry status starting May 3, 2016. Entrants may only check their status by entering their confirmation information at http://www.dvlottery.state.gov/ESC/; the U.S. government will not mail out a notice regarding an Entrant’s status, and embassies and consulates will not provide a list of selectees. DV-2017 Entrants should keep their confirmation number until at least September 30, 2017.

The list of DV-2017 countries is available in the official DV-2017 Program Instructions http://travel.state.gov/content/dam/visas/Diversity-Visa/DV-Instructions-Translations/DV-2017-Instructions-Translations/DV-2017%20Instructions%20and%20FAQs.pdf, and is also copied below:

LIST OF COUNTRIES/AREAS BY REGION WHOSE NATIVES ARE ELIGIBLE FOR DV-2017

The list below shows the countries whose natives are eligible for DV-2017, grouped by geographic region.

Dependent areas overseas are included within the region of the governing country. The countries whose natives are not eligible for the DV-2017 program were identified by USCIS, according to the formula in Section 203(c) of the INA. The countries whose natives are not eligible for the DV program (because they are the principal source countries of Family-Sponsored and Employment-Based immigration or “high-admission” countries) are noted after the respective regional lists.

AFRICA
Algeria
Angola
Benin
Botswana
Burkina Faso
Burundi
Cameroon
Cape Verde
Central African Republic
Chad
Comoros
Congo
Congo, Democratic Republic of the
Cote D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)
Djibouti
Egypt*
Equatorial Guinea
Eritrea
Ethiopia
Gabon
Gambia, The
Ghana
Guinea
Guinea-Bissau
Kenya
Lesotho
Liberia
Libya
Madagascar
Malawi
Mali
Mauritania
Mauritius
Morocco
Mozambique
Namibia
Niger
Rwanda
Sao Tome and Principe
Senegal
Seychelles
Sierra Leone
Somalia
South Africa
South Sudan
Sudan
Swaziland
Tanzania
Togo
Tunisia
Uganda
Zambia
Zimbabwe

* Persons born in the areas administered prior to June 1967 by Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Egypt are chargeable, respectively, to Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Egypt. Persons born in the Gaza Strip are chargeable to Egypt; persons born in the West Bank are chargeable to Jordan; persons born in the Golan Heights are chargeable to Syria.

In Africa, natives of Nigeria are not eligible for this year’s Diversity Visa program.

ASIA
Afghanistan
Bahrain
Bhutan
Brunei
Burma
Cambodia
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region**
Indonesia
Iran
Iraq
Israel*
Japan
Jordan*
Kuwait
Laos
Lebanon
Malaysia
Maldives
Mongolia
Nepal
North Korea
Oman
Qatar
Saudi Arabia
Singapore
Sri Lanka
Syria*
Taiwan**
Thailand
Timor-Leste
United Arab Emirates
Yemen

*Persons born in the areas administered prior to June 1967 by Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Egypt are chargeable, respectively, to Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Egypt. Persons born in the Gaza Strip are chargeable to Egypt; persons born in the West Bank are chargeable to Jordan; persons born in the Golan Heights are chargeable to Syria.

**Natives of the following Asia Region countries are not eligible for this year’s Diversity Visa program: Bangladesh, China (mainland-born), India, Pakistan, South Korea, Philippines, and Vietnam. Hong Kong S.A.R. (Asia region), Macau S.A.R. (Europe region), and Taiwan (Asia region) do qualify and are listed here.

EUROPE
Albania
Andorra
Armenia
Austria
Azerbaijan
Belarus
Belgium
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bulgaria
Croatia
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Denmark (including components and dependent areas overseas)
Estonia
Finland
France (including components and dependent areas overseas)
Georgia
Germany
Greece
Hungary
Iceland
Ireland
Italy
Kazakhstan
Kosovo
Kyrgyzstan
Latvia
Liechtenstein
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Macau Special Administrative Region**
Macedonia
Malta
Moldova
Monaco
Montenegro
Netherlands (including components and dependent areas overseas)
Northern Ireland**
Norway
Poland
Portugal (including components and dependent areas overseas)
Romania
Russia
San Marino
Serbia
Slovakia
Slovenia
Spain
Sweden
Switzerland
Tajikistan
Turkey
Turkmenistan
Ukraine
Uzbekistan
Vatican City

**Natives of the following European countries are not eligible for this year’s DV program: Great Britain (United Kingdom). Great Britain (United Kingdom) includes the following dependent areas: Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Pitcairn, St. Helena, and Turks and Caicos Islands. Note that for purposes of the diversity program only, Northern Ireland is treated separately; Northern Ireland does qualify and is listed among the qualifying areas. Macau S.A.R. does qualify and is listed above.

NORTH AMERICA
The Bahamas

In North America, natives of Canada and Mexico are not eligible for this year’s DV program.

OCEANIA
Australia (including components and dependent areas overseas)
Fiji
Kiribati
Marshall Islands
Micronesia, Federated States of
Nauru
New Zealand (including components and dependent areas overseas)
Palau
Papua New Guinea
Solomon Islands
Tonga
Tuvalu
Vanuatu
Samoa

SOUTH AMERICA, CENTRAL AMERICA, AND THE CARIBBEAN
Antigua and Barbuda
Argentina
Barbados
Belize
Bolivia
Chile
Costa Rica
Cuba
Dominica
Grenada
Guatemala
Guyana
Honduras
Nicaragua
Panama
Paraguay
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Lucia
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Suriname
Trinidad and Tobago
Uruguay
Venezuela

Countries in this region whose natives are not eligible for this year’s DV program: Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, and Peru.

Posted in Heather Fathali |

Refugee? Migrant? Human Being.

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015 by Heather Fathali

Our world is facing a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions; 2015 alone has seen hundreds of thousands of people risking their lives—and losing their lives— to flee war, violence, poverty, persecution, and other harsh or tragic circumstances in their home countries. Millions more are displaced within their home countries.

Where and how to provide refuge is an issue that cannot be ignored and a conversation that must be had. Sadly, it took a tragic photo of a drowned child on a European beach to capture much of the world’s attention – but the issue is finally at the forefront; with world leaders offering their homes, and even the Pope taking a stance.

However in having this conversation, many people are unsure of the appropriate language to use. Refugee? Migrant? Asylum-seeker? Immigrant? First and foremost, we must be reminded that these are human beings; families like yours and mine.

That being said, there are significant legal implications depending on the term used. While entire treatises can be written on the meaning and legal implications of these terms, I offer a simple guide to when a term might appropriately be used:

Refugee: Generally, a refugee is a person who has been forced to flee their home country due to persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. A person who qualifies as a refugee pursuant to the United Nations’ 1951 Refugee Convention will be afforded a number of protections under international law; including, most significantly, not being immediately deported back to their country of persecution.

Migrant: A migrant is a person who is resettling in another country, or in different region or safe place within their home country, in search of a better life. The umbrella term migrant can be used to describe any person who has moved to a new place from their home country, including those who do so voluntarily and under positive circumstances. For this reason, the use of this term for some is uncomfortable, as it lacks the urgency of a term like refugee and tends to connote voluntariness. In fact, the term migrant covers millions of displaced persons worldwide who are forced to flee very harsh conditions in their home country, who do not flee because they want to, but because they must.

While a great many migrants are in fact refugees, the term is not restricted to a person fleeing persecution. A person fleeing poverty is a prime example; a person displaced due to a disaster is another example. Generally, such a migrant is not afforded protections under international law; unless that person qualifies as a refugee, a migrant’s entry into a particular country will be processed pursuant to that country’s immigration laws—without the protections afforded by the 1951 Refugee Convention.

Asylum-seeker: An asylum-seeker is a person who is fleeing persecution in their home country and seeking status as a refugee in a safe country, but whose claims to refugee status have not yet been adjudicated. Many migrants are asylum-seekers, and will become refugees upon adjudication of their legal claims.

Immigrant: The term immigrant is a general term that can be used to describe any type of person who has left their home country as a migrant and is settled at the new country they will call home. Such a person could have been fleeing persecution as an asylum-seeker and then a refugee; such a person could also have been fleeing poverty or some other harsh conditions that do not rise to what international law deems to be persecution; such a person could also have left their home country for positive reasons.

While the term being used to describe a person is significant in a legal sense, it is crucial to remember that whatever their legal status, these are all people we are talking about— grandparents, moms and dads, brothers and sisters, children. Each is a unique human being facing a unique set of circumstances, who must be treated individually and with respect.

Posted in Heather Fathali |

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