Areas of Practice in Immigration Law

Federal immigration law determines whether a person is an alien and has the legal rights, duties, and obligations of aliens in the United States. It also provides means by which certain aliens can become lawful permanent residents and naturalized citizens with full rights of citizenship. Immigration law determines who may enter, how long they may stay, and if and when they must leave.

Attorney Ricardo Skerrett represents clients in all immigration and nationality law matters, including family-based immigration, employment-based immigration, removal hearings, bond hearings, and asylum, as well as citizenship proceedings.

Mr. Ricardo Skerrett has extensive experience in all matters arising under the immigration and nationality laws. Mr. Skerrett is a specialist in assisting clients in obtaining visas, as well as handling matters before the Board of Immigration appeals.

Mr. Skerrett is not only extremely experienced in the law governing immigration, he understands how the immigration legal process works. Mr. Ricardo Skerrett is committed to providing the highest quality representation in the areas of immigration and nationality law in an efficient, caring, and professional manner.

Family-based immigration ranges from bringing in immediate relatives of U.S. citizens (e.g., spouse, minor and unmarried children, and parents) to “preference” relatives in several categories (e.g., unmarried sons and daughters of green card holders and U.S. citizens, married sons and daughters of citizens, and brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens). The United States has provisions for certain visa holders to bring dependents, such as their spouses and children, on accompanying visas.

The Immigration and Nationality Act allows U.S. Citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents (green card holders) to sponsor the immigration of foreigners to the United States based on family relationships. A U.S. consular officer will issue a visa after the USCIS approves a petition filed by a qualified family member. After the petition is approved, the visa may be issued in as little as 90 days or as long as 25 years, depending upon which of the categories listed below apply and depending on the immigrant’s home country. However, not all family relationships serve as a basis for applying for Lawful Permanent Resident status.

A U.S. Citizen may file a petition on behalf of his/her:
1. Husband, wife, or child under the age of 21 (immediate relative);
2. A parent if the U.S. citizen is at least 21 years of age (immediate relative);
3. An unmarried son or daughter 21 years or older and their children (first preference);
4. Married son or daughter of any age and their children (third preference);
5. Brother or sister if the U.S. citizen is at least 21 years old and his or her spouses and children (fourth preference)

A Lawful Permanent Resident can file the petition on behalf of his/her:
1. Husband or wife and children under the age of 21 (second preference A);
2. Unmarried child 21 years or older (second preference B)

The Immediate Relative category, as noted above, in effect, has no limit on the number of visas issued each year, and there is no wait other than the time it takes the USCIS to process the visa petition.

Under Section 245(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, a U.S. citizen may petition for an immediate relative, and he or she may adjust status in the U.S., so long as the alien entered the U.S. legally.

Under Section 245(i), a US citizen may petition for an immediate relative, and he or she may adjust status here in the U.S., even if that relative has fallen out of status, worked without permission, entered as a crewman, been admitted in transit, or been admitted under the visa waiver program.

Aliens other than immediate relatives fall into one of the four limited family-based preference categories, and a visa will not be immediately available as there is a numerical limit on the number of visas issued each year. More aliens want visas than are currently available.

Therefore, there may be a long waiting period for the visa to be issued. When the application is received by the USCIS, they will note the filing date or the “priority date.” The applicant must wait for the priority date to be current before he or she can file to adjust status or apply for an immigrant visa.

Attorney Ricardo Skerrett provides legal counsel and representation in all family-sponsored immigration matters. Mr. Ricardo Skerrett also has extensive experience assisting clients with the K1 Fiancé Visa, K3 Marriage Visa, Adjustment of Status to Permanent Residence, and Consular Processing of Immigrant Visas.

Very often, foreign nationals will find themselves in removal proceedings in immigration court due to an uninspected entry into the United States, overstaying the time authorized, or other circumstances. In some cases, there are a variety of criminal issues that may further complicate the immigration proceedings.

There are certain requirements to removal proceedings that serve as guarantees to the alien that he or she will be treated as fairly as the process allows. The alien must be given proper notice and may choose to be represented by an attorney. The alien must be given the opportunity to present evidence on his or her behalf and examine the evidence against him or her. The decision to remove/deport or not to remove/deport the alien must be based on “reasonable, substantial, and probative evidence."

Attorney Ricardo Skerrett regularly appears before judges in United States Immigration Courts on his clients’ behalf to make sure that they are fully protected to the maximum extent allowed by the law. Appeals are taken and defended before the Board of Immigration Appeals.

When an alien is taken into custody, the USICE does have the option to release the alien. An alien must show that he or she does not pose a threat to national security or a bail risk. Factors to consider are previous arrests in the U.S., previous convictions, illegal entry into the U.S., employment status, participation in subversive activities, and the presence of relatives in the U.S. Some aliens are entitled to bond hearings in immigration court.

Attorney Ricardo Skerrett provides skilled and personal legal services to men, women, and children detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), formerly a part of the INS.

The law provides for asylum and/or withholding of removal for an alien if the individual can prove he or she was persecuted or feared persecution in his or her home country based on his or her religion, political opinion, nationality, race, or membership in a particular social group. An Individual who fears torture may also qualify for relief.

Attorney Ricardo Skerrett provides excellent legal representation in asylum cases, whether appearing before a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) examiner or in U.S. Immigration Court.

When a permanent resident of the US or a US citizen wants to petition for a family member who is outside the US, the process begins with the filing of the family petition (Form I-130) with the Center of the Immigration Service that has jurisdiction over the place of residence of the petitioner (American citizen or permanent resident).

When the petition is approved, the case is transferred to the National Visa Center of the Department of State for the processing of the immigrant visa of the beneficiary (the foreign relative). Once the priority date arrives (if the petitioner is a resident and a non-citizen) and/or when the case is approved by the National Visa Center, the case is finally transferred to the American consulate where the beneficiary is located for the holding of an interview and investigation of the foreigner. This process is called consular processing, and it is a slow process.

The National Visa Center is in charge of arranging the interviews at the consulate. If the applicant cannot attend, they must report directly to the consulate.

In order to expedite procedures during the consular process, the consulate tries to complete the criminal record investigation process (“security checks”) on the same day that the interview for immigrant visa applicants is held (“immigrant visa” or “IV”), whose cases present no problems. But, in some cases, the issuance of the visa is delayed a day or two due to problems with the fingerprints (IDENT). The process could be further delayed next year when they start taking 10 fingerprints instead of two.

US CIS introduced the new form I-864W of affidavit of support for those situations where the visa applicant has earned or will be credited with 40 periods of income reported to Social Security. If the applicant submits evidence of income reported to Social Security, he or she will be exempt from all other affidavits of support requirements. As a result of this, the petitioner who filed the I-130 application no longer has to submit the previous year's income tax return or evidence of income.

In all other cases, if the petitioner (“sponsor”) is going to use property and assets instead of income, the sponsor can use his or her principal residence as long as the property is in the US. The consulate does not take into consideration properties located abroad.

In cases where the primary beneficiary has adjusted status in the US, but there are derivative relatives (spouse or minor children) residing abroad, the principal may file Form I-824 with CIS to notify the consulate that it is necessary to issue derivative visas to the family members. Once the form is approved, it is sent to the consulate to process the visas for the derivative relatives.

Alternatively, the principal can send a notification directly to the consulate, indicating that they have obtained their permanent residence and request the processing of visas for derivative relatives. It must be requested in writing, and send a copy of the card for approval. The consulate will then send a cable to CIS for confirmation, and if the adjustment is confirmed, will begin processing the derivatives. The primary beneficiary must be present at the derivative interview and bring their permanent resident card with them.

Applicants whose petitions are denied because they have to submit additional evidence or for lack of documentation must return for a second interview any time during the month in which they are denied. Applicants for preference categories (non-immediate relatives or work preferences) who are rejected must call the service center before going to the information window.

Consular Processing - Priority Date

These cases of family petitions of immediate relatives of permanent residents whose relatives are abroad are complicated and extremely slow due to the fees imposed by the law and the number of government agencies involved. The law imposes a limit of 226,000 people who can enter the US annually sponsored by immediate relatives.

Because the number of family petitions exceeds the limit imposed by law, the State Department, through the National Visa Center, which is the agency that controls the issuance of immigrant visas to foreigners, has designed a preference program based on kinship priorities and dates. The first preference is the sons/daughters of American citizens; preference 2A - spouses and minor children of permanent residents; preference 2B - unmarried sons/daughters of legal age (21 years old); third preference: children of US citizens who are married; fourth preference siblings of US citizens of legal age.

The Visa Department publishes a newsletter periodically that breaks down the preferences and the current priority date of each preference. The bulletin is available on the Department of State website:

AILA Commends DHS Rule Amending Immigration Waiver Process for Close Family Members of US Citizens.

Washington, DC – The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) commends the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for issuing a final rule that will allow certain family members of US citizens who are physically present in the United States to remain in the country while applying for the waiver they need to become permanent residents.

The process change permits certain immediate family members of US citizens (spouses, parents of citizens at least 21 years of age, and minor children) to apply for a provisional waiver of unlawful presence while remaining in the US, thereby cutting down on the lengthy waits — sometimes a year or more — during which these citizens are separated from their families during the process. To obtain the waiver, applicants would still need to meet the strict letter of the law, which requires them to prove that family separation will cause their American citizen spouse or parent extreme hardship. If the waiver is granted, the foreign national must still leave the US and apply for and receive an immigrant visa abroad before returning to the US. However, the length of time that American families are forced to remain separated should be considerably lessened.

The final rule has been expanded to include those eligible family members who have had removal proceedings administratively closed and whose cases have not been recalendared at the time of filing the provisional waiver application. However, anyone with a final order of removal or who has been previously removed will not be eligible for the new waiver process.

“The new rule is a smart way to remove one of the biggest roadblocks for families who already qualify for immigration benefits, but who wouldn't put their loved ones at risk under the current system. We don't know exact numbers, but this simple processing change will have a huge impact on US families caught in the current immigration mess. Stateside waiver processing doesn't grant a legal status or protect someone from immigration enforcement, but it's a good solution for many who were looking for a safe way out of the immigration labyrinth. The new rule isn't perfect, and there are questions we hope to have answered before the rule goes into effect on March 4, but the agency has left the door open to improving the process to cover other types of cases if this initial rollout is successful,” said Laura Lichter, AILA President.

Why Choose Attorney Ricardo Skerrett as a Corporate Immigration Law Firm?

Our clients, who range from some of the largest multinational companies in the world to medium-sized and small businesses, share one thing in common: they see immigration as a benefit for their company, not a problem for their employees. We work with our clients to develop an immigration policy that aligns their need for the talents of professionals from around the globe with their overall business strategy, and help them implement that policy when a new hire needs immigration assistance.

We work with companies in a variety of industries, including financial services, pharmaceutical, biotech, chemical, educational (including universities and research institutes), information technology, health care (including hospitals), engineering, manufacturing, agricultural equipment, transportation, entertainment, scientific research, automotive, insurance, retail, property, and landscaping.

Experience: Our expertise runs the gamut from more routine H-1bs to complex O-1s; from developing Corporate Immigration Policies to defending corporations in I-9, LCA, and/or PERM audits.

Creativity: We have a well-deserved national reputation for creative solutions to difficult problems. We do not believe in a one-size-fits-all approach, usually offering one or more solutions to difficult problems presented by clients. We are particularly respected for our cutting-edge solutions to difficult business immigration problems, which include:

Partnering: We make it our business to learn about your business. We provide practical, clear suggestions for handling immigration matters but always discuss with the client the alternatives, possible issues, and business risks involved. We view our work as a team effort with the client and seek to ensure that the client agrees with and understands our strategic decisions.

Satisfaction: Through formal and informal means, we review our performance with our clients and request input on ways we can be even more responsive to their needs.

References: The best source of information on the quality of our service is our clients. Most of our clients chose us after being represented by other firms. They are our best source of references as to how we do things differently — and better. Please ask us for client references.

The firm’s immigration practice in this area includes:

• Obtaining Temporary Business-Related Work Visas
We are most active in the preparation and filing of non-immigrant worker petitions with the USCIS. We provide this service to corporate, governmental, and nonprofit organization clients interested in employing a foreign national in an executive, managerial, or otherwise professional capacity. These visa categories include H, J, and L visas. Aliens seeking to come to the U.S. for purposes of trade (E-1) or to invest in the U.S. (E-2) also seek our service.

• Obtaining Employment-Based Permanent Residence Petitions
Many clients wish to retain their foreign executives or managers, professionals, skilled workers, and non-skilled workers on a permanent basis. Our firm assists clients in preparing and conducting alien labor certification with the United States Department of Labor and in obtaining approval of employment-based immigrant visa petitions with the USCIS.

• Assisting Clients in Complying With the Immigration Reform Control Act and other immigration laws.
We assist clients in complying with the United States immigration laws that regulate entry to the United States and the employment of foreign nationals. Mr. Ricardo Skerrett also processes visa petitions, applications for extensions of stay or change of status, and adjustment of status petitions, among others, for business visitors, students in practical training or exchange, athletes, artists, and family dependents of executives and other professional clients.

• IRCA and I-9 Compliance for U.S. Employers
The immigration laws make it illegal to employ foreign nationals who lack USCIS permission to work in the U.S.A. With very limited exceptions, employers are
required to verify that all employees (even U.S. citizens) are authorized to work in the U.S.A. by timely completing and maintaining Forms I-9. Penalties may be imposed against employers for knowingly hiring and continuing to employ an unauthorized worker and/or for failing to complete and/or maintain the required documentation.