Law Office of H Edward Ballout

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Ballout Immigration Law

The Law Offices of Haitham Ballout

News and Articles

BIA Issues Decision Confirming Marriage Petitions for Same-Sex Spouses Are Permitted

On July 17, 2013, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) issued a decision confirming that I-130 petitions concerning same-sex couples who are legally married may be approved. This decision solidifies the interpretation of the Department of Justice that DOMA is no longer an impediment to legally married same-sex couples seeking immigration benefits.

If you are legally married to your same-sex spouse and would like to seek immigration benefits, please contact our office today.

Read the decision here.

Breaking News: Immigration Reform Bill Passes in the Senate!

Today, the United States Senate voted 68-32 to pass its immigration reform bill S. 744! All Democrats as well as 14 Republicans voted in favor of the bill. This is a positive and encouraging victory. However, before immigration reform can become law, it has to pass the House of Representatives. The House has insisted that it will come up with its own bill rather than vote on the Senate bill. At this point, it is the opinion of this office that the fate of immigration reform in the House remains very unclear. We are pleased that a bill has made it through the Senate and we look forward to seeing how the House will respond.

Read More:

Senate passes sweeping immigration bill via CNN
Senate Passes Immigration Overhaul via NY Times
Senate Passes Vitaly Important Compromise Immigration Reform Bill via AILA

Breaking News: USCIS Now Accepting I-130 Petitions From Legally Married Same-Sex Couples!

USCIS will begin implementing the ruling in DOMA immediately.

Alejandro Mayorkas, Director of USCIS announced today, June 27, 2013, at an AILA conference in San Francisco, California that "we have kept records of all denied I-130s filed based on same-sex marriage and we will be acting on them."

Our law firm interprets this to mean that USCIS will start approving immigration petitions filed on behalf of same-sex marriage (gay marriage) where such marriages are recognized in the subject jurisdiction. This also extends to VAWA applicants, petitions for step-children, I-601 waivers, cancellation applications in removal proceedings, fiancée petitions etc.

This changle also applies in the context of H-1B and L visas. So long as the union takes place where gay marriage is recognized, even if couple moves to a state which bans gay marriage, the marriage will be recognized by USCIS as valid. This certainly extends to disclosure on USCIS forms, meaning such marriages must be disclosed and a divorce must take place before a new marriage will be recognized. Serious consideration should be kept in mind before filing for fiancée petitions where acknowledging a same-sex marriage would expose the immigrant spouse to danger in his or her country of origin.

Call us today if you are a legally married same-sex couple needing immigration assistance!

Breaking News: USCIS To Begin Processing Petitions for Married Same-Sex Couples!

As a result of today's Supreme Court ruling invalidating §3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that DHS will "implement today's decision so that all married couples will be treated equally and fairly in the administration of our immigration laws." Accordingly, this office expects that USCIS will imminently begin processing I-130 applications for married same-sex couples.

If you are legally married and would like to petition your same-sex spouse, call our office today for an appointment!

Read More:

Statement by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano via DHS
DHS working to implement DOMA ruling for immigrants via The Hill

Senate Votes to Debate Immigration Bill As Obama Urges Support

The Senate voted to open debate on its immigration reform bill today, coinciding with a speech by President Obama urging support for the bill. It is still unclear whether the Gang of Eight's immigration reform bill has the votes to clear the Senate but, if it does, it will still have to garner support in the House or be squared with any competing legislation that may come out of that chamber.

Read More:

Obama Presses Immigration Bill As Senate Opens Debate via NY Times
Senate votes to debate immigration reform via CNN

Immigration Reform Faces Slow Process

The Gang of Eight's immigration reform bill has been voted through the Senate Judiciary Committee, and it is expected to be passed in the Senate next month. However, many House leaders have warned that they will not simply OK the Senate bill. Instead, the House will produce its own unique bill. One bill each from the Senate and the House would force the two chambers to send members to a conference to work out the differences: a daunting process.

However, the House has yet to produce a bill of its own in the timely manner executed by the Gang of Eight.  Accordingly, it may have to resort to passing discrete  laws in order to get any immigration reform legislation on the table.

No matter how you slice it, it is clear that immigration reform has a ways to go yet.

Read More: Despite Early Success, Immigration Bill Faces Uncertain Path Forward via TIME

Immigration Reform Updates

The Senate continues to review and amend its immigration reform bill at the same time as the House has signaled agreement on an immigration reform bill of its own. The two bills will differ, with the House bill being significantly more conservative than its Senate counterpart, and it is not clear at this time how the two bills would be reconciled. However, it is clear that either bill would substantially alter the immigration landscape. We are eagerly following the progress of both bills.

Read More:
The Senate has passed 48 amendments to the immigration bill. Here's what they do. via The Washington Post
House immigration group announces 'agreement in principle' via The Hill

New Deferred Action Statistics Released

United States Customs and Immigration Services has released new data regarding Deferred Action processing, available here.

Highlights include that of the 497,960 Deferred Action applications accepted for processing, 291,859 have been approved to date. Only 2,352 applications have been rejected. 203,749 applications remain under review. This means that 59% of applications of accepted applications have been approved to date, while only .05% have been denied. This is great news for qualified Deferred Action applicants, as processing is moving forward at an efficient pace to allow for eligible applicants to receive swift approval.

Conservatives Signal Tough Road Ahead for Immigration Reform Bill

Conservative repulicans are already signaling that the Gang of Eight's immigration reform bill, currently pending in the Senate, is not going anywhere fast. Particularly troubled by the path to citizenship that would become available to undocumented immigrants, many House republicans are indicating that they are only comfortable with passing piecemeal immigration bills that do not threaten such sweeping reforms.

Read More:

A conservative backlash threatens immigration reform via Huffington Post
Marco Rubio: Gang of Eight's immigration bill can't pass the House via Politico

Rejection of Alabama Immigration Law Stands

An Alabama immigration law that would make it illegal to harbor or transport undocumented immigrants in the state was rejected in federal court as unlawfully overstepping federal immigration law. The Supreme Court refused to hear the case on Monday, leaving the federal courts with the final say on the matter for the moment. The case will return to federal district court for further rulings. Alabama and Arizona are now known for passing some of the toughest immigration laws to date.

Read More: Justices refuse Alabama's immigration law appeal via Reuters

New Immigration Bill Imminent: What Will It Look Like?

The Gang of Eight, a bipartisan group of senators that has been negotiating a highly anticipated immigration reform package, has completed discussions and is slated to produce an immigration reform bill for debate next week. This legislation has the potential to significantly impact immigration procedures for immigrants in and out of the county. So what can we expect to see from this new bill?

  • Acceleration of green cards for immigrants who applied from outside of the United States;
  • Acceleration of green cards for immigrants who applied while legally present within the United States, especially those who have already been waiting for over 10 years;
  • Provisional status for undocumented immigrants already present in the United States, allowing them to legally work and travel, but requiring them to live in the U.S. for 10 years prior to achieving eligibility for a green card, and another 3 years prior to achieving eligibility for naturalization;
  • Removal of annual limits on green cards for spouses and minor children of legal permanent residents; and,
  • eventually merit-based visas for skilled workers in three categories: high tech and science, mid-range skilled workers, and low-wage workers (farmworkers and agricultural guest workers come under a separate program)

The immigration reform legislation is still being drafted and is subject to change. Additionally, it must still be put to a vote in the House and the Senate and signed into law by President Obama. Nonethless, it is very exciting to see immigration reform legislation moving forward at a productive pace, and this office will be closely watching its progress in the hope that a new set of laws will be passed that will benefit many current and future clients.

Read More: Immigration Bill Expected to Focus on Work Skills via New York Times

Haitham E. Ballout Selected as 2013 Super Lawyer!

We are proud to announce that Haitham E. Ballout has once again been selected as a Northern California Super Lawyer! His inclusion on the 2013 Northern California Super Lawyers list will mark his fourth consecutive year as a Super Lawyer. We would like to thank our wonderful clients for giving us the opportunity to do this important work. Recognition is just icing on the cake!

Obama Poised to Support Bipartisan Immigration Reform

President Obama is encouraged by a recent framework for immigration reform put forth by bipartisan senators. Obama noted that immigration reform is long overdue, and that it would be prudent to capitalize on the bipartisan support for reform emerging out of the 2012 election. 

Read More:

'Now's the time' to move on immigration, Obama says via CNN
Obama makes his immigrataion bid via USA Today
Senators announce deal to overhaul immigration system via USA Today
Senate immigration reform backers seek quick action via Reuters
Senators Offer a Biparisan Blueprint for Immigration via NY Times


Breaking News: Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver

Today, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced an important new rule, set to take effect on March 4, 2013:

"Under current law, immediate relatives of U.S. citizens who are not eligible to adjust status in the United States to become lawful permanent residents must leave the U.S. and obtain an immigrant visa abroad. Individuals who have accrued more than six months of unlawful presence while in the United States must obtain a waiver to overcome the unlawful presence inadmissibility bar before they can return to the United States after departing to obtain an immigrant visa."

"The [new] rule establishes a process that allows certain individuals to apply for a provisional unlawful presence waiver before they depart the United States to attend immigrant visa interviews in their countries of origin."

"In order to obtain a provisional unlawful presence waiver, the applicant must be an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, inadmissible only on account of unlawful presence, and demonstrate the denial of the waiver would result in extreme hardship to his or her U.S. citizen spouse or parent. USCIS will publish a new form, Form I-601A, Application for a Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver, for individuals to use when applying for a provisional unlawful presence waiver under the new process."

For More information, please see:

USCIS Press Release
New Rule Text
Immigration Change to Ease Family Separations via NY Times