Friday, March 15, 2013

To Will or Not To Will

Chaudhary Law Office, PLLCIn many societies, or even families, individuals are uncomfortable with the idea of mortality.  Those living in the U.S. are no different.  Consequently, we put off making preparations for the inevitable.  

And while death and taxes may be life's only guarantees, less than half of adult Americans are prepared for this finality.  Minorities, and immigrants especially, make even fewer legal preparations, leaving their children and family members vulnerable to confusion and legal conflict over one's actual wishes.  

Moreover, immigrants face unique legal issues when disposing of a deceased person's assets.  Therefore, an Estate Plan is essential legal documentation to ensure long-term, family security--on par with investments, retirement savings, and life insurance.    

When one passes away, the remaining possessions, assets, and obligations are referred to as the "estate."  The law requires various aspects of an estate be disposed of in some way.  For example, if it is not known (in writing) who the parents wanted to care for their children, a U.S. court will decide on their behalf. This is the law.  However, if there is a document, such as a Will, stating the children would live with their aunt and uncle (for example), the law would enforce it.  

Unmarried visa holders are at particular risk in the U.S., because there is no chance of one's estate passing automatically to a spouse.  If parents or siblings do not reside in the U.S., there is a high chance one's assets will be distributed by a court and not according to the individual's wishes.

An Estate Plan simply refers to documents stating one's wishes for the estate upon passing.  A simple estate plan consists of a Will, Health Care Directive, and Power of Attorney.  Other plans consist of more complicated documents such as a Trust.  These documents make sure that your religious customs, family wishes, and financial assets are respected.  

If one is not a U.S. citizen, it is best that an experienced professional draft these documents and answer questions.  A simple Estate Plan can cost as little as a few hundred dollars, saving thousands of dollars (and heartache) in future legal expenses.

There are many other implications unable to be covered in this space, such as tax impact, life insurance distribution, and immigration status.  For a free brochure, contact Chaudhary Law Office, PLLC at, or (612) 206-3721, for a free consultation.

***Senator Satveer Chaudhary (rtd) was the first Indian Senator in American history, and is now owner of Chaudhary Law Office, PLLC, an immigration law firm primarily serving the Indian community.  For information at

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Massive Visa Changes Proposed

In a fit of productivity, Congress has been hard at work drafting immigration bills!  On Tuesday, January 29, 2013, Senators Hatch (R-UT),  Rubio (R-FL), Klobuchar (D-MN), and Coons (D-DE) introduced the “Immigration Innovation Act of 2013” (aka “I2 Act of 2013”).  The bill focuses specifically on well-educated foreign nationals who wish to live, study, and work in the United States.

The bill dedicates four sections to 1) employment-based non-immigrant visas, 2) student visas, 3) employment-based immigrant visas, and 4) STEM education funding.  (Read the short summary here.)  For each section, the bill aims to relieve the congestion of visa quotas foreign nationals currently face and enable smoother dual intent to migrate to the United States permanently for certain foreign nationals.
1.     Employment-Based Non-Immigrant Visas
Naturally, H-1B visas come immediately to mind.  So much so that Google’s SVP of People Operations, Laszlo Bock, even commented on the bill.  In essence, the bill, if approved, would allow for a scaling increase or decrease of H-1B visa quotas based on the economy between 65,000 to 115,000.  The sooner the H-1B cap is met, the larger number of new H-1B visas would be made available.
Dependent H-1B spouses would also benefit by being able to apply for work authorization.
There is also language to facilitate easier extensions of H and L petitions where no change has occurred between the employer or the foreign national.  It’s curious how USCIS adjudicators would actually interpret this section in practice….
Finally, the bill would allow for non-immigrant workers to transition from one employer to the next more efficiently, including being able to revalidate their E, H, L, O, and P visas.  From a practical perspective, this will certainly decrease the cost of travel and loss productivity.  Immigration practitioners may want to dust off their old Department of State legal briefs for visa revalidation!
2.     Student Visas
To stem the “brain drain” from leaving the United States (and going to Canada, Brazil, Chile, China or India, for example), this bill would allow students a means to pursue permanent residence in the U.S.  American colleges and universities should be preparing for a influx of foreign student applicants!
3.     Immigrant Visas
Similar to “roll-over” minutes on your cell phone, this bill would allow the recapturing of previously approved but unused immigrant (greencard) visas from previous years to be used in the current year and for any unused visas to “roll-over” to the next fiscal year.
To the cheer of many highly-skilled workers, visa quotas for certain employment-based immigrant visas would be lifted:
  • Dependents of employment-based immigrant visa holders
  • U.S. STEM advance degree holders
  • Extraordinary ability persons
  • Outstanding professors and researchers
Perhaps the biggest change would be lifting the visa quota based on per-country limits specifically for employment-based visa petitions.  This means that immigrants to the U.S. employers may sponsor permanent workers without the worry of per-country limits that have traditionally clogged the immigration system.  Our practitioners by now should be in full alarm mode as this section of the bill has the potential to uniformly affect both family and business immigration practices by significantly increasing caseloads.
4.     U.S. STEM Education
The bill’s foresight in funding the future is also evidenced by this last section.  Funds collected from H-1B visas and employment-based immigrant visas would help to fund and promote science, technology, engineering and math education and retrain workers in the United States.
Whether this bill survives Congressional review, it will certainly leave its mark on what will soon be a Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) package- one way or another!

Saturday, January 5, 2013