Andy: Please welcome to our program. Hello, Mike and Christina, how are you doing today?
Mike Agruss: Doing well thanks for having us on the show.
Christina Colem…: Yeah. No, great. Thanks. It’s great to be back.
Andy: Welcome to our programs. So please say hello to your new clients and your new communities.
Christina Colem…: Well, good afternoon, everyone. Hope you’re well.
Mike Agruss: Hi, my name’s Mike Agruss, I’m the managing partner at Agruss Law Firm. And I’m excited Christina’s on the show again to talk about immigration, part two.
Andy: All right. Okay. Are you ready? We got a lot of questions today. First of all, on behalf of the television [inaudible] 1040 Chicago, we appreciate your time and your patience. Because we’ve got a lot of given issues, and we don’t understand and we need to learn from your expertise here.
The first question that we’re talking today about, the immigration law. A lot of people, as you already knew, a lot of people, they come from different countries, and especially from Asia. And a lot of issues we struggle and we don’t know how to resolve, and where to go, right. So this program, hopefully the people here understand more the process and which one is the right way to get the right visa, and immigrate the proper way, not illegally, right? So please introduce a little bit yourself, how long you’ve been in the business and you know, what is your [inaudible].
Christina Colem…: Great. Well, thank you again for having me. My name’s Christina Coleman and I’m the owner and founder of RC immigration. We handle only immigration. That’s all we do, US immigration. So that’s people coming into the country. And whether it’s getting a work card or a green card or becoming a US citizen, we handle a variety of different types of immigration matters.
Andy: Okay. [foreign language].
Yes, thank you very much for your introduction and…
Mike Agruss: Sure. And yeah, I think what’s important about what Christina said before we get on to the next question is how she specializes in immigration, and that’s all she does. It’s such a specific area of law. Like we do personal injuries, Christina does immigration. And I think that’s important that you want to go to someone who knows exactly what they’re doing. So we don’t do immigration. And we rely on Christina for immigration cases. And I think for the viewers, that’s really important to know. They don’t want to go to someone who’s necessarily a jack of all trades.
Andy: Right. Okay. [foreign language].
Christina Colem…: Thanks Mike, for adding that too. And one thing I would just also add is that I’m actually an immigrant myself. I grew up in Canada. And although it’s a little less dramatic than coming from Asia, it still is a lot. I came here as a graduate student to go to school. And after graduate school, I was approved for an H-1B visa. I had an F-1, I had a J-1. I had all the alphabet soup of visas, we like to call it. Then eventually I got my green car and about five years later I became a citizen. So it was a while ago. But still I have been through the process, and I do find that it’s easier to empathize with people, and understanding it can be a very anxiety inducing process. So that’s something extra that I bring to the table, also.
Andy: Oh, right. That’s excellent. Right. [foreign language].
It is very impressive, your story, right? So you are expert because you know what step to take, right. From one visa to next visa. And finally you become US citizen, right. That’s amazing, right.
Mike Agruss: Is that how you became interested in immigration law?
Christina Colem…: Yes. I will say that actually initially growing up, I had no intention of ever being a lawyer. I was going to be a Professor of Medieval Studies. Middle Ages, Chaucer. I actually went to Yale to do a PhD in early English literature. And that’s how I wound up down here.
And it’s a long story that I won’t bore with the details, but eventually I decided I wanted to have a little bit more of an immediate impact in people’s lives. The research, the solitary nature of a lot of the research. So changed course. And in the course of it, I started working for an immigration law firm where I worked for about five years and finally thought, I should go to law school. And then the rest is history. But yeah. So it was, everybody has their own path. So that’s how I got onto immigration though. And once I did it definitely resonated and that’s been my…
Andy: Wow. That’s an excellent story, right? To learn from you. Now let’s see, Chris [foreign language]. Yes.
Mike Agruss: So for the viewers, I’m sure they’re interested. How do you come to the US to go to school? And then how do you come to the US to work?
Christina Colem…: It’s a different process obviously for both, but in both cases, the similarity is that you do need a sponsor. So if you’re coming for school, you will need an entity, a university typically, that is authorized to issue the right documentation so that you can get what’s called an F-1 or student visa. And universities are pretty good. They have international student offices, most of them, who will help you get the piece of paper that you need. It’s actually called an I-20.
Mike Agruss: Right.
Christina Colem…: And then you will make an appointment at the embassy. And even though there’s a big backlog of cases at the embassies, they are prioritizing student visas, because they know you can’t wait four years to start. You need to get here to do your degree, or wherever you are at. So that’s how you would come for school.
Andy: Right. Even though you are Canadian citizen. And in order to come to US, you still need the visa?
Christina Colem…: Yes. It’s a slight difference, but it’s super technical. And basically the answer to that is yes.
Andy: Yes. Okay. [foreign language].
Yes. Thank you.
Mike Agruss: So how about for work? I think you had mentioned school. How does someone here for work, to the US?
Christina Colem…: Again, there’s a couple of different processes. Almost in between being a student and being an employee there is, when you finish a four year degree program here in the United States, if you’re on an F-1 student visa, you are then authorized for at least one year of work authorization. And sometimes up to three years, if you’re in a STEM field. And the administration actually in January just increased the number of degree programs that are qualified for the three year. So it’s an excellent way to get from, sort of make that transition from student to worker. And then I’ll explain the other part separately, but maybe I’ll…
Andy: Thank you. [foreign language]. Yes.
Mike Agruss: Can you tell us what a green card is? And also, can you let us know what happens if it gets lost or damaged or stolen, what you should do?
Christina Colem…: Sure. And we can come back to how you get here for work, before you would ever get a green card. Let’s talk about a green card though. A green card, which is called a green card. They used to be issued on green paper. For a long time they were not green, now they’re kind of back to being a little bit green, but that’s why they’re called green cards. Everyone’s like, why’s it called a green card?
A green card is evidence of legal permanent resident status. So once you have become, usually you have to apply for it separately. You can apply for it either through a family member or through work, and you can kind of pull those two apart. Typically they’re good for 10 years. And when you go to renew them, you should always renew them. But it’s important to keep a copy of your green card. Keep track of the date that it expires.
Andy: Yes. All right. [foreign language]. Thank you.
Mike Agruss: And if your green card is lost or stolen, damaged, what should someone do?
Christina Colem…: Sure. So as I was saying, it’s important to always keep it renewed. If you do lose it or it’s damaged or it’s stolen, it’s a pretty straightforward process to replace it. You can now do that online. You should always make a police report, if someone steals your wallet and it has your green card in it, you want proof that it was stolen, because you will be asked about it.
But it’s important to also understand, if you were to lose your green card, it doesn’t mean you’re not a permanent resident anymore. You don’t physically have to have the card to be a permanent resident. You always need it as evidence of your status, but the only person who can take away your green card status is a judge. So if you went to apply for renewal, and it turned out you had committed a very serious felony, you could have some problems with renewing. Typically it’s very straightforward, but it’s a very important document. So you always want to keep it somewhere safe. And keep a copy.
Andy: Yes, okay. [foreign language]. Ye. Thank you.
Mike Agruss: How does someone become a permanent resident in the United States?
Christina Colem…: So we were just talking about being a permanent resident. So great follow up, how do you get to be a permanent resident? And there’s three main ways. You can do it through a family member who is an immediate relative. And we can talk a little bit about who qualifies as an immediate relative. The second is through asylum, and that’s where an individual has suffered or fears persecution, and is inside the United States. They can apply for permanent residence. And the third is through employment. And the employer files what’s called a permanent labor certification. And I can explain a little bit what that means.
Andy: [foreign language]. Thank you.
Mike Agruss: Sure. Let’s go through, yeah, let’s go through each of the three scenarios, if you can give a few more details. So as far as becoming a permanent resident in the US through a family member, if you can give us a little bit more detail on that process.
Christina Colem…: Certain family members can be sponsored. So as a permanent resident yourself, you’re allowed to sponsor certain family members, spouse, and children under 21. So once you get your green card, if you had a spouse and a child abroad, you could petition for them. If you were to get married, you’re here, you would be able to petition your spouse if they weren’t already a green card holder. And as a US citizen, you can sponsor what is considered immediate relatives. So parents, children, spouses, and siblings, and these are considered immediate relatives. People always want other family members to be eligible to sponsor. But unfortunately, no granny, no grandpa, no uncle, no aunt. They’re not eligible to sponsor anyone.
Mike Agruss: So it’s a small circle when we’re talking about sponsorship.
Christina Colem…: Yeah. It’s definitely pretty limited. And even more limited for green card holders than US citizens. US citizens get to bring their brothers and sisters.
Andy: Right, right. [foreign language]. Yes, thank you. What’s the next question?
Christina Colem…: But I just want to add one thing about that, and it’s an important difference. So although US citizens can sponsor their siblings as well as parents, children, spouses, there is a difference in the process, and the same for green card holders. US citizens have their parents, their children, their spouses, there are immediately visa numbers. There’s no delay. So you file that immediate relative petition, and you are usually eligible to file the green card application at the same time. You don’t have to wait.
For brothers and sisters, you can file the immediate relative. Then you’ve got to wait, usually a long time before there’s a visa available. And even longer, if you’re from certain country trees like Mexico, Philippines, they wait a lot longer. So there’s an important, there’s a timing aspect. So although you’re eligible to sponsor them, I just want the viewers to know that there is a difference in the way it’s handled. And also between when people are already here and people are outside the country.
Andy: Right. Right. Okay. [foreign language]. Thank you.
Mike Agruss: Can you give a few more details about seeking asylum and becoming a permanent US resident?
Christina Colem…: So our firm specializes within our specialization, and we chiefly do employment-based and certain family-based. Asylum law is a very special creature unto itself. We do not handle asylum cases. I have a wonderful network of people I can refer them to in general.
And Andy and I were just chatting about this before we started the show today. What is the difference between an asylum and a refugee, Andy was asking me. So asylum, you are already inside the United States. So somebody who comes in and then fears returning to their home country because they’re afraid of persecution, or war, or other reasons why they can’t go back. You usually have to be here for at least a year before you can make the asylum claim, don’t quote me on that. But there are of course all kinds of regulatory processes that you have to go through.
A refugee is someone who’s requesting that they be allowed to enter from abroad. So those individuals are still outside the United States. So we’re seeing all kinds of course, with the current situation. But it’s again a very lengthy process, and all kinds of hurdles to get through. There is a United Nations High Commission on Refugees. And I know they’re working, but it’s obviously heartbreaking what is happening in the Ukraine. But as I say, if anybody has issues that they need assistance with, I have a wonderful, wonderful colleague who does a lot of asylum and refugee work. Because it’s one of those things you either do a lot, like we were talking, you kind of stay in your lane. But that’s the overview.
Andy: Yes. Okay.
Christina Colem…: Sorry. I was too long. No, no that’s all right.
Andy: All right. I think I got it. Okay. I got more questions for you about general refugee as well, but you know, let me translate. Okay. Your answer.
Thank you for your answer about refugee and the different, and now I understand very clearly. But my question is who sponsor for the refugee, or the asylum? Do we or someone need be sponsor?
Christina Colem…: As far as I’m aware, you’re able to self sponsor. So you can make the petition, the request on your own. There may be an advantage to having individuals who are willing to sign maybe an affidavit of financial support, or speak to your character. An asylum case is a lot of work to put together, and so you do need all kinds of character references and people who can corroborate your story.
So it is a complex area of law. But having someone who really practices that on a frequent basis is what you want to make sure that you have, if you’re going to move forward with an asylum petition. And the timing, I know there is a one year, I can’t, I honestly don’t remember whether it’s you have to file in less than a year. So definitely let me know if there’s, if anybody has a request, I’d be happy to share the information of my wonderful colleague.
Andy: Okay. All right. Thanks. [foreign language].
Yes. Thanks for your answer about the asylum and refugee. My personally, I was, not anymore, I’m a US citizen right now, but I was a refugee.
Christina Colem…: Okay.
Andy: Okay [inaudible] people, but I couldn’t get any sponsor, so finally I had to get a sponsor from my brother, so.
Christina Colem…: Oh, okay. Yeah.
Andy: Yeah. Because by the time we was in Thailand, it’s not easy to communicate with the US embassy or the people outside of the Thailand, is very tough. Another question, when you mentioned about the immigration, especially for refugee, war refugee, how do we know, how do we know? Because there’s a special process for the war refugee, for example, right now the people in Ukraine, they go through, across the border, Poland or around [inaudible] country. How do they know, okay, where and what, should they apply?
Christina Colem…: Right. I mean, that’s a tough thing to know. I know the embassies in neighboring countries are trying to assist people who, some people fleeing Ukraine already had sponsors in place, family sponsors. So they’re processing some of those visa interviews at Frankfurt in Germany. You know, that embassy is obviously closed in the Ukraine. So they’re trying to get the word out, the Department of State, which is the agency that governs the embassies, certainly is trying to assist as much as they can.
I know USCIS has made Ukraine a country with temporary protected status. So anybody here who’s been here since March the first who’s from the Ukraine, Even if their visa is expiring, their I-94 is expiring, they can apply for a special status called TPS or temporary protected status, that the government will issue in cases of national disaster. For example, or, people from Haiti, Sudan, Libya, Venezuela. So it’s called TPS.
And so any Ukrainian who is here now and has been here since the 1st of March can apply for TPS. And that’s huge that they, I mean, they had to obviously allow that. So there are measures being taken to try to assist people. But it is, it is. It’s a lot.
Andy: Yeah. So basically doesn’t matter what, you know people, when they escape their country, they must go to US embassy somewhere, right?
Christina Colem…: Or at least communicate with people in the country they’ve gone to, to sort of ascertain what options they have. I know in Poland there’ve been a lot of refugees going to Poland and sort of going through the channels there. But again, I’m probably not the best person to address these, because it’s not something that I know well. But I’m aware of it through our professional, like the whole thing with the Frankfurt embassy, helping with the interviews. But yeah. And people who are in the US trying to help relatives should, if they want to reach out to attorneys who specialize in refugee and asylum work, I mean, it’s really probably going to be more of a refugee issue. But yeah, I would recommend that.
Andy: Yeah. Thanks. [foreign language].
Thank you very much. The time is up right now, okay. I think, okay. We should have at least another hour, okay, to explain more about refugee and then asylum, and also immigration visa to America, right. Hopefully, okay, we see you next time. And we have more time to expand. And now before we say goodbye, please say goodbye to your new audience and your new client.
Christina Colem…: Well, thanks again for having me today. I know there’s so many issues in the world of immigration we could stay and talk all day, and I hope we’ll have me back and we can, I know Mike had lots more questions about employment based law too. So I’d love to come back, you’re a wonderful host. Thank you very much.
Andy: You’re welcome.
Mike Agruss: Yeah, it was great. Thanks for coming on, I feel like there’s so many questions we didn’t get through. You’re certainly, we’ll have to come back and before we end the show, I think that something viewers always want to know, and if you just want give a quick explanation as far as what you do for initial consultation, if you can just mention what the charge is for that. And then if you could just also quickly explain, which I think is great about the services you offer is, and I know that there’s always exceptions to the rule. But you generally have prices for different services that you offer, so people know when they hire you how much it’s going to cost. So if you could just quickly explain your consultation and then what things you offer, where there’s a flat fee, so people know what they’re getting into.
Christina Colem…: That’s right. We do try to handle most of our cases on a flat fee basis. And after we have a consultation and we decide on the best strategy for you, I will quote you a flat fee that covers almost everything. There’s the odd time where there might be some unusual circumstance, but in general, we like to keep to a flat fee, we like that transparency, clients like to know what they’re looking at.
We offer consultations. We do charge $150, but that’s 45 minutes and we will go through all your questions, figure out what strategy you might want to use. And you can reach out to us. You can email me directly or visit our website, www.rcimmigrationgroup.com. And I hope I will hear from you.
Mike Agruss: Exactly. And then also [inaudible] available as well through the phone number on the screen to help out with translations as well, for the viewers to know that, that there’s someone here to help them to speak with Christina.
Andy: Yes. Right. Thank you. [foreign language].
Thank you for joining our program today. And before we say goodbye, one more time, we do appreciate your time and hopefully we see you next time. Okay. Thanks so much. We’ll see you next time.
Christina Colem…: Bye everyone.