Vitalia Diaz Shafer, a graduate of Stetson University College of Law, has practiced immigration law for over 20 years.
The New York-born Tampa lawyer says she became interested in the specialty because her mother is from Colombia and her New York-born father is of Cuban and Spanish descent. “So immigration has always been a thing in our family; someone applied for citizenship or got residency or got a tourist visa, that sort of thing. And I speak fluent Spanish.
Diaz Shafer, 47, spoke with the Tampa Bay weather about the various pathways and obstacles faced by people trying to immigrate to the United States.
Does every immigrant have to have a sponsor?
No not necessarily. For example, when you are dealing with asylum, you do not need sponsorship. If you have been the victim of a crime, no sponsorship is necessary. But the easiest way is obviously sponsorship, employment or family petitions. … Sometimes you can invest in the United States but just get a temporary visa, where your visa is only valid for the duration of your investment. Then you have investments, if you invest $ 900,000 in a business you can actually get a residence, $ 1.8 million if it’s in an area that’s a bigger city. …
(Also when) there aren’t enough Americans or lawful permanent residents who are willing or able to do a particular job. And these people can also be sponsored by an employer.
At present, there is a serious (shortage) of nurses. So a nurse, for example, if she can get sponsorship now, she can also get residency in the United States.
This route is therefore not reserved for important scientists.
Unless you are a professional, unless you have a degree, it is very difficult to get something through a job – unless you can establish that there is not enough ‘Americans or lawful permanent residents to do so. For example, I had a person who worked on watches and clocks. … nobody really works on grandfather clocks anymore … so he was able to get a residency because it’s so unique.
How long does the immigration process take?
The simplest process is to file family petitions through immediate relatives. Someone who marries an American citizen. If the citizen, let’s say he is in England and the spouse is American. … It might take a year and a half for that person to finally get an immigrant visa appointment in their country, and then they come. … Let’s say the couple get married in the United States. This person, the applicant, can apply for residency and become a resident in about a year.
These are the nice, beautiful and easy cases, aren’t they? They last a year, a year and a half. …
If you are not an immediate relative – the spouse of a US citizen, the parent of a US citizen, or the minor child of a US citizen – there is something called a Visa Bulletin, and it tells you … how many visas … allocated to that specific category. And then they even divide it into countries. In some countries there are so many people in line that they have created categories for them themselves. For example, the Philippines, Mexico, India, China, they are all in their own category. And then there is (one) category for all the other countries in the world. …
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For a brother or sister of an American citizen who is Mexican, they are in Mexico and the American citizen brother or sister has petitioned for them… currently, for Mexico, they only grant 4,500 visas per year to siblings of US citizens. More than 700,000 people are queuing up today. And the Visa Bulletin… right now it says, oh, we’re working on petitions filed in April 1999.… They only move about two months each year, and on top of that, they’re seriously behind schedule. So when you calculate all of that, really, a citizen of the United States petitioning for a brother, that brother is going to wait over 160 years, the way it is now.
Yet in some categories all countries are up to date, you say.
Good news – for years it was overdue – minor children or spouses of lawful permanent residents, in all categories at all levels, they are up to date.
How successful are people seeking asylum in the United States?
Personally, unless it’s a really valid asylum case, I’m letting them know that these are cases that are so, so difficult. There are courts where it’s a three percent approval rate. Thus, 97% of cases are refused.
I’ve worked with, in particular, children from Honduras who come here, and the problem is that our laws don’t really make it easy for them to get asylum in the United States. … These children who arrive, they have to start working when they are 10 years old because they have to help provide for the family. … And they have a hard time, because, for example, in Honduras, these children try to go to school and the gangs always try to target them and integrate them into their gang, and if they don’t , they kill them. It’s just a terrible situation, but … our government said, well, it’s just too large a group. The whole country has a problem; we can’t let everyone in. So you have these children escaping these terrible lives, and their cases are still not strong enough to get asylum in the United States.
You have succeeded in getting the government to allow a woman subject to deportation proceedings to stay in the country. How? ‘Or’ What?
She was a woman, she was a single mom, she worked in a car wash trying to support four children and we were able to get her residency… and that was a huge relief for her. …
This is called “the annulment of the eviction”. It’s a program that, “Look, you’ve been here for at least 10 years before you got kicked out. You have paid all of your taxes. You weren’t arrested for nothing. You have dependent children who are US citizens; one of them could have a heart problem. You are a good person. It’s just that you don’t have the right papers. ”…
Your burden of proof is to show that your children or eligible parent will experience exceptional and extremely unusual hardship if you are deported. The burden is quite high. So these cases are difficult, but when there is a victory, it is a very good feeling.
For more information, visit diazshafer.com.