It’s been two weeks since the program opened.  We have helped dozens of people prepare and file their applications.  Some of the cases were simple.  Most were not.  Your case might not be as simple as you thought, either.  Here are the top 5 issues that have come up:

1.  I bought a social security number. (Or I used a friend’s number. Or I made up my own SSN.)  What should I put on the forms?

Answer: There is no clear answer.  But there is a best choice.  Sometimes that choice is not to file at all.  Other times it’s to wait and see.  Other times it’s to disclose your fake SSN.  What’s right for you depends on your case as a whole: your immigration history, positive things about your case, negative things about your case, prior removal orders, family, length of time in the US…the list goes on.  If you’ve used a fake SSN (whether you got it yourself or not) you need to talk to a lawyer to see how to handle it.

Stay tuned for an upcoming blawg post about this issue: “Deferred Action And Fake SSN’s.”

2.  I came to the US under 16, but I don’t have proof of when I came in since I didn’t start school under after I turned 16.

Answer: I always tell people it’s impossible to live in the US without leaving a paper trail. Somebody sent you mail.  Or tagged you on Facebook.  Or took a picture of you. Or you made a call, bought something, or traveled somewhere.

One young woman came to our office with this problem.  I asked her whether she had any photographs from 2004 or 2005, when she was 14 and 15 years old.  She handed me 5 or 6 pictures.  None of them had any dates on them.  One was a picture of her and her niece standing before the Reflecting Pool with the Washington Monument in the background.  So it was clearly in the United States.  But how to date it? 

Looking carefully in the picture I noticed a low white wall around the Monument. Having lived in the DC area for ten years, I’ve been to the Monument many times and hadn’t seen that white wall.  A quick Google search revealed that the Monument was closed for renovations between September 2004 and April 2005.  During that time, a temporary construction wall was erected around the Monument.  I asked the young woman whether she ever remembered getting close to the Monument, and she said no, because it was closed.  She was dressed in fall clothes; it seemed the weather was warm but not hot.  With some documentary evidence (a Washington Post article about the Monument’s closure) and some affidavit evidence to fill in the gaps, we now have pretty strong proof of her physical presence in the US at least before April 2005.

My job as a lawyer is to help you find the evidence you didn’t know you had.

3.  I’ve been working and I can’t remember what I put when my employer gave me a form I-9.  I might have said I was a citizen.

This is a problem.  People who check the wrong box on the I-9 and claim to be a citizen have committed a crime for which there is no fix.  You could be placed in removal proceedings and deported.  Therefore, for every case, we make sure to talk to our clients about what they might have put on an I-9.  This week I talked to an employer for one of my clients to have their corporate office fax a copy of the client’s I-9.  Before you file, you need to know what’s on your forms.  This was one case I put the brakes on.  

4.  I got my birth certificate translated from a professional, and he notarized it, but the translation’s not word for word.  Is it ok?

Answer:  No, you can do better.  A lot of these “summary translations” of birth certificates only give the basic information: child’s name, date of birth, parents’ names, etc.  But USCIS typically requires more.  It is true that sometimes these summary birth certificate translations work, and USCIS will not question it. 

But for DACA (deferred action) cases, I believe the birth certificate may be the most important document.  This is because 3 of the requirements (your current age, your age at the time of entry, and your age at the time of application) are all controlled by the birth certificate.  The problem with the summary translation is that it usually leaves out very important information: the name of the issuing authority.  How is USCIS supposed to know, by looking at a summary translation, whether the birth certificate came from the official Registro Civil or from a hospital?  A birth certificate needs to be from a government authority, and bear the name of a certifying individual.  

Anyone who is fluent in the language (e.g., Spanish) and English can certify the translation.  Notarization is not required.  But the translation should be complete – palabra par palabra (word for word).  You can go to a professional company, or you can have any person you know who is fluent in both languages certify on the bottom of the translation:

“I certify that I am fluent in the English and Spanish languages and the foregoing is a faithful and accurate translation of the original Spanish into English.” 

and then print and sign their name below.

5.  I don’t know all my past addresses, is this really important?

Answer:  Yes.  Do not be lazy.  It is hard for many people to remember their addresses, and the application asks for all addresses you’ve ever had since coming to the US.  We filed a case for a young man who had no less than 8 previous addresses.  But yes, you have to try to remember.  As best you can.  Even if you stayed someplace for only a few months, you need to list it.

Why is it important?  Well, that’s one reason you need to be working with a lawyer.  A lawyer will understand that USCIS (immigration) will check addresses with government databases to see if you are telling the truth.  And more importantly, if you can’t remember your addresses, they will doubt that you’ve been in the US for as long as you say you have.  That means they will either deny your case, or send you a nasty Request for Evidence (RFE) to show proof of those old addresses and of your continuous physical presence in the US.  And lastly, if you fail to disclose an address, then you haven’t told the truth on your application forms.  That’s never a good idea.

You need to be working with a lawyer to make sure your application is not only approved, but is as strong as possible.  If you’re not, then at the very least, get your application reviewed by a lawyer.  If you’re not even doing that, you don’t need to be filing a case at all. 

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