The U.S. Department of State has issued a new warning against travel to Nigeria, in particular the northeast of the country. The warning is reprinted below. This supersedes the earlier warning, reported here.
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Nigeria and recommends that U.S. citizens avoid all travel to Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states because the security situation in northeast Nigeria remains fluid and unpredictable. The U.S. Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens in Nigeria to consider their own personal security and to keep personal safety in the forefront of their travel planning. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning for Nigeria dated February 2, 2015.
The ability of the Mission to provide assistance to U.S. citizens in Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states remains severely limited. The Department continues to recommend against all but essential travel to the following states due to the risk of kidnappings, robberies, and other armed attacks: Adamawa, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Borno, Delta, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, Yobe, and Zamfara. The Department also warns against travel in the Gulf of Guinea because of the threat of piracy. Based on safety and security risk assessments, the Embassy maintains restrictions for travel by U.S. officials to those states listed above; officials must receive advance clearance by the U.S. Mission for any travel deemed as mission-essential. U.S. citizens should be aware that extremists could expand their operations beyond northern Nigeria to other areas of the country.
The U.S. Mission advises all U.S. citizens to be particularly vigilant around government security facilities; churches, mosques, and other places of worship; locations where large crowds may gather, such as hotels, clubs, bars, restaurants, markets, shopping malls; and other areas frequented by expatriates and foreign travelers. Security measures in Nigeria remain heightened due to threats posed by extremist groups, and U.S. citizens may encounter police and military checkpoints, additional security, and possible road blocks throughout the country.
Boko Haram, an extremist group based in northeast Nigeria designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the Department of State, has claimed responsibility for many attacks, mainly in northern Nigeria. Its members have killed or wounded thousands of people during the past four years. Boko Haram has targeted churches, schools, mosques, government installations, educational institutions, and entertainment venues in Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano, Plateau, Taraba, the Federal Capital Territory, and Yobe states. Hundreds of thousands of Nigerians have been displaced as a result of violence in the north.
2014-2015 saw an increase in attacks by Boko Haram and clashes with Nigerian government security forces in northern Nigeria. Boko Haram targeted men, women, and children for kidnapping. In April 2014, Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of over 200 school-aged girls in Borno State. Boko Haram is known to descend on whole towns, robbing banks and businesses, attacking police and military installations, and setting fire to private homes. In 2014, extremists also targeted several public markets and transportation hubs in northern Nigeria, including the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja. In Abuja, two explosions occurred in separate attacks at a parking lot in April and May and a shopping center was bombed in June. Several other markets, schools, churches, mosques and bars were targeted throughout the north including an attack with heavy casualties at the central mosque in Kano in November. Boko Haram also claimed responsibility for a suicide attack in Lagos that used a Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device that killed four at the Apapa port facility on June 25, 2014. In January 2015, Boko Haram attacked the town of Baga in Borno state, resulting in an estimated 2,000 casualties. January - July 2015 saw attacks and suicide bombings in Adamawa, Plateau, Borno, and Kano states.
Various curfews are intermittently in effect in several states in the North. All U.S. citizens should remain aware of current situations including curfews, travel restrictions, and states of emergency in the areas they are in or plan to visit. This information is commonly announced via the news media, but at times it can change with very little notice. Please take the time to find out this information for your area.
Cell phone service has, at times, been disrupted in Nigeria, particularly in areas where a State of Emergency has been declared, and when extremists have attacked cellular telephone towers. U.S. citizens should attempt to arrange for multiple means of communication in case of need during emergencies.
Kidnappings remain a security concern throughout the country. Kidnappings are orchestrated by Islamic extremists, predominately in the North, and for ransom by criminal elements in the South. Several high-profile kidnappings occurred in 2014-2015 involving U.S. citizens and other foreign nationals. In September 2014, two U.S citizens were kidnapped in Port Harcourt in two separate incidents. In February 2015, a U.S. citizen was kidnapped in Kogi state. In May 2015, two U.S. citizens were kidnapped in Ondo and Anambra states in separate incidents. Kidnappings of foreign nationals and attacks against Nigerian police forces in Lagos state and the Niger Delta region continued to affect personal security for those traveling in these areas. Criminals or militants have abducted foreign nationals, including U.S. citizens, from off-shore and land-based oil facilities, residential compounds, airports, and public roadways. Local authorities and international corporations operating in Nigeria assert that the number of kidnapping incidents throughout Nigeria remains under-reported. Attacks by pirates off the coast of Nigeria in the Gulf of Guinea have increased substantially in recent years. Armed gangs have boarded both commercial and private vessels to rob travelers. The Nigerian Navy has limited capacity to respond to criminal acts at sea.
Violent crimes occur throughout the country. U.S. citizen visitors and residents have experienced armed muggings, assaults, burglaries, armed robberies, car-jackings, rapes, kidnappings, and extortion. Home invasions also remain a serious threat, with armed robbers accessing even guarded compounds by scaling perimeter walls, accessing waterfront compounds by boat, following residents or visitors, or subduing guards to gain entry to homes or apartments. Law enforcement authorities usually respond slowly or not at all and provide little or no investigative support to victims. U.S. citizens, other foreign nationals, and Nigerians have experienced harassment and shakedowns at checkpoints and during encounters with Nigerian law enforcement officials.
As previously reported on this blog, a recent administrative decision - Matter of Simeio Solutions LLC - has been causing consternation within the immigration community. The reason is that Simeio stated that employers must file an amended H-1B petition and an updated Labor Condition Application (LCA) if a H-1B worker moves to a different location from the location named in the original petition and LCA. Before the decision, immigration lawyers relied on long-standing USCIS guidance that said that a new petition was not needed if there was a new LCA in place before the employee changed locations.
Following the decision, USCIS issued interim guidance, with a request for comments. USCIS has now released the final guidance, available here. In summary, the new guidance confirms that a new petition is needed if the H-1B worker moves to a location that is not within commuting distance of the worksite listed on the original LCA. The worker can start at the new worksite once the petition is filed with USCIS, and does not need to wait until the petition is approved.
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USCIS guidance: http://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/Laws/Memoranda/2015/2015-0721_Simeio_Solutions_Transition_Guidance_Memo_Format_7_21_15.pdf
For more information, feel free to contact the firm directly, firstname.lastname@example.org.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will resume premium processing (PP) for H-1B extensions. USCIS announced on May 19, 2015, that it was suspending PP applications, to allow the agency to implement the Employment Authorization for Certain H-4 Spouses final rule in a timely manner and adjudicate applications for employment authorization filed by H-4 nonimmigrants under the new regulations. This was noted in a previous blog posts, here.
On July 13 - 2 weeks earlier than the expected resumption date - USCIS started accepting PP applications once again. However, PP requests that were filed before July 13 will not be accepted.
There are certain immigration questions that arise far more than others, and today I start an occasional series where I answer these FAQs. if there is any area that you would like to see addressed in future posts, please let me know in the comments.
CONDITIONAL PERMANENT RESIDENCE
What is conditional permanent residence?
Conditional permanent residence (CPR) is granted to a foreign national who applied for permanent residence (green card) based on a marriage that is less than 2 years old at the time of the PR interview. This provision is designed to reduce marriage fraud. Towards the end of the 2 year CPR period, the couple needs to file a petition to remove the conditions. If approved, the foreign national then gets “full” permanent residence.
CPR is also granted to the minor children of a foreign national who marries a US citizen when the PR interview is within 2 years of the marriage.Because the most common cases of CPR involve a spouse, the article below will assume that the spouse has the CPR.
How do I remove the conditions on permanent residence?
You and your spouse need to jointly file an I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence, within the 90 days before the CPR expires. This means, normally, that the couple files the petition 21 months or later (but no more than 24 months) after CPR was granted.
The I-751 is filed with USCIS, accompanied by evidence that the marriage was entered in good faith. This evidence can include copies of documents in joint names of the couple, e.g., insurance papers, bank statements, credit card statements, leases, mortgages, joint tax returns, birth certificates for any children of the marriage, etc.
After you file the petition, you and your spouse might be called for interview. CIS has discretion to waive the interview if the agency doesn’t think that an interview is needed. If there is no interview, your case will be approved and you will get your new green card in the mail.
Will CIS remind me that I need to file the I-751?
No, CIS will not send any reminders that your CPR is about to expire. You need to track this expiration date very carefully yourself.
What if I am late filing the I-751?
Failure to file will result in loss of your resident status. Late filings are permitted with sufficient explanation of the reason(s) for being late in filing.
What if my case has not been approved and my conditional green card expires?
The receipt for the I-751 filing should include a note automatically extending the permanent residence for one year. This allows the foreign national to continue to work and travel as a permanent resident. If the I-751 is still not decided at the end of that one year extension, the foreign national can visit their local CIS district office to request an I-551 stamp ion their passport. This I-551 stamp is further evidence of permanent residence and, like the I-751 receipt notice, is as good as a green card for work and travel.
What if the marriage has ended or my spouse refuses to sign the I-751?
You may request a waiver of the joint petitioning requirements if:
You can claim multiple grounds for a waiver, if more than one reason applies. If applying for a waiver, you can file the I-751 at any time, not just within the 90-days before CPR expires. If you are requesting a waiver, you need to provide the following documents in addition to proof that the marriage was genuine:
Widow/er: a copy of the death certificate
Marriage terminated: a copy of the divorce decree or other document terminating or annulling the marriage.
You or permanent resident child were battered or subjected to extreme cruelty: include:
A. Evidence of the physical abuse, such as copies of reports or official records issued by police, judges, medical personnel, school officials and representatives of social service agencies, and evidence that the marriage was genuine, as described above.
B. Evidence of the abuse, such as copies of reports or official records issued by police, courts, medical personnel, school officials, clergy, social workers and other social service agency personnel. You may also submit any legal documents relating to an order of protection against the abuser or relating to any legal steps you may have taken to end the abuse. You may also submit evidence that you sought safe haven in a battered women's shelter or similar refuge, as well as photographs evidencing your injuries.
C. A copy of your divorce decree, if your marriage was terminated by divorce on grounds of physical abuse or extreme cruelty.
Extreme hardship if PR not approved: include evidence that your removal would result in hardship significantly greater than the hardship encountered by other aliens who are removed from this country after extended stays. The evidence must relate only to those factors that arose since you became a conditional resident.
Where can I get more information?
Elaine Martin has been practising US and global immigration law since 1997. She is an immigrant herself (from Ireland), so has a special understanding of the legal and emotional challenges involved in relocating to a new country.