Posts Tagged ‘immigration law’

A Move to Minneapolis

November 8th, 2012
posted by at 3:34 pm

By Pam Prather

In our striving for world dominance, we have recently joined the ranks of “the multi-office firm”.  You may have already heard, but one of our attorneys – Rashmi Shah – has moved to Minneapolis, MN. Rather than give up the Nirvana that is working at Bashyam Spiro (ahem), it was decided that she would open up a branch office there.

Rashmi has set up an office, contracted office support staff, and reached out to several communities to spread the good word. She has gotten involved with the Indian-American population, which is about the 8th largest in the 50 states.  She has networked with business groups, other attorneys, and professional organizations involved in immigration.

I understand Rashmi has also purchased a warm coat.  Minnesota is a beautiful state, with a climate that varies greatly through the seasons.  When most people think of Minnesota, though, this is what they envision:

I don’t know how many of you reading this were impressionable young ladies living in the U.S. in the 70’s, but when I think of Minneapolis (or one-half of the Twin Cities, which is what the area is often called) I think of a spunky young woman who could “turn the world on with her smile”.  Yes, now you will have that tv theme song stuck in your head all day.  I am speaking of the one, the only, Mary Richards.  Starring Mary Tyler Moore, this ground-breaking television show was set in the fictional news station WJM of “greater Minneapolis”.  It had a huge impact on me (and millions of other young women), showing the title character fighting the sexist corporate world of those times.

So, when I think of Rashmi up there, all alone in her high-tech, satellite Bashyam Spiro office, working hard to ensure the new office is a success, I picture things a little differently.  Because I know – just like Mary Richards – she’s “gonna make it after a-all”.

Here We Go Again on Immigration Reform?

February 15th, 2011
posted by at 1:56 pm

A few weeks ago, we posted an article on our Facebook page that said Senators Chuck Schumer and Lindsay Graham are testing ‘political will’ on a possible push for comprehensive immigration reform.   Of course, we were immediately skeptical.  If immigration reform didn’t happen when Democrats had a supermajority in Congress, can it really happen during an election cycle over the next two years?

Summing up the argument on both sides of the debate, Ray Suarez writes the following in an article in the Huffington Post:

The symbolic argument is strong and holds tremendous appeal for millions of Americans. It goes something like, “What part of ‘illegal’ don’t you understand?” People who did not follow the law, gain proper documents, and enter the American job market with the permission of the immigration authorities, goes the argument, should get no consideration at all from the system. Those people are right. The eleven million or so illegal residents in the country have no legal claim to long term legal residence in the United States.

But hold on a minute… the other side quickly pipes in, “What part of collapsing industries don’t you understand?” Immigrant labor is the pillar upon which many industries leans. Immigrant labor creates profits that spin out into real estate markets, department stores, auto dealerships, and keep the country’s food the cheapest in the developed world. In the near term, it’s interesting to speculate on whether sending the 11 million home would reduce the unemployment rate among native-born citizens, or explode it. The effects would no longer be confined to the Northeast, Border Southwest and the West Coast. Wait until you see the Census figures from all kinds of places that never thought of themselves as Latino kind of places.

It would be in the best interests of both political parties, and our country, to put differences aside and pass a fair immigration reform bill that balances enforcement with our country’s immigration needs.  But in an election cycle, political will is likely to be absent on this issue, and as Mr. Suarez correctly points out – it’s complicated.

Exploring the PERM Labor Certification Process

February 14th, 2011
posted by at 5:47 pm

A PERM labor certification is typically the first step in an employer-sponsored permanent residency application. Over the past 15 years, our office has seen this process go through many changes.  Our Senior Immigration Paralegal, Pam Prather, recently wrote an enlightening article exploring the latest trends in the PERM labor certification process.

If you are an employer or foreign national employee and want to latest tips, trends and best practices in the PERM labor certification process, you should take a moment to read the article and register for our next Webinar, where attorneys, Murali Bashyam and Ame Coats, will be giving you an inside look into the PERM Labor Certification process and answering your most frequently asked questions LIVE.

Webinar: Latest Trends in PERM Labor Certification Process
Date: Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Time: 12:30 PM – 1:00 PM EST
Free Registration: https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/322878851

Find additional employment based immigration resources here.

Take a Survey and Rate Our Website!

February 13th, 2011
posted by at 4:13 pm

Rate Bashyam Spiro's Website

Our website has been a premier source of the latest immigration news, procedures and information for well-over a decade.  In an effort to help you, we are redesigning our site to help you access this immigration information in a more efficient manner.   As the redesign process moves forward, we want to hear from you! Please take the time to complete this simple survey.  You can tell us what you like or dislike about our current website, and provide suggestions on how we can make our website better. It’s through your input that we can best help our clients and other interested parties stay abreast of the latest immigration news, visa options and immigration procedures.

Bashyam Spiro 15th Anniversary Memory #6: TINA

December 7th, 2010
posted by at 3:42 pm

By, Tina Huber, Senior Immigration Paralegal

I have been at Bashyam Spiro for over 4 years. When I first started with the firm my specialty was the immigration of foreign registered nurses to the United States. This was a special immigration niche that I had past experience with and is still my favorite kind of case to work on. I work on various employment-based immigration cases now, but when reflecting on the work that I do I have found the immigration process for foreign nurses the most unforgettable.

I deal with hardworking and underpaid healthcare professionals who live exhausting lives in third world countries and somehow, are lucky to find a U.S. hospital or medical institution that will sponsor them.  

Unlike other skilled workers, nurses don’t go through the labor certification process and can essentially come into the U.S. with a green card (after many hoops and hurdles are cleared).  However, the process they go through to get the green card takes MANY, MANY years. 

Once the I-140 is approved, I have the dual task of bearing good news and bad news to the beneficiary. The good news is that their petition has been approved and the National Visa Center will begin processing their immigrant visa case once their priority date is current, handling everything until it is time for their visa interview in their home country.  The bad news is that their priority date may be 5 – 8 YEARS from becoming current.  How do you put that in plain words for someone who wants to book their ticket to the U.S. before I have even finished congratulating them?  It is heart wrenching to explain that most likely their young children will probably get to finish high school, not start elementary school, in the U.S., and that they must carry on with their lives “just getting by” for a few years more, unless Congress sees fit to remedy the U.S. nurse shortage soon. Which is not likely.

I love to think that just being a part of the U.S. immigration process makes life better for them in their home countries; that they tell their friends that they have an approved immigration petition and that one day soon they will be working in America. I hope that that is enough for them while they endure the long, arduous wait and I hope I am there when they get to cross the finish line.

Bashyam Spiro Anniversary Memory #3: Immigration Attorney, Murali Bashyam Shares 15 Years Worth of Lessons

November 24th, 2010
posted by at 8:00 am

By, Murali Bashyam

I’d always wanted to be my own boss.  So when a very senior Raleigh attorney encouraged me 15 years ago to ‘go on my own’, I almost jumped at the chance…almost.

I was cautious.  I was the first to know how much I didn’t know.  How could a recent law graduate practice law without law firm experience, I wondered?  I needed more information.  My next step was to talk to others and get it. 

I called a number of senior attorneys I knew and asked them for their opinion.  They were all encouraging.  Many of them said, “if anyone can do it, you can. We will help you.”  I was very fortunate to have these mentors take me under their wing.  In my first year of practice, it made a world of difference to have experienced attorneys answer my call, take my questions, and help me when I needed it.

Thinking back on it now, what I did then was incredibly risky!  However, I was lucky to have a good support system in place to help me along the way.  Today, we have grown from that one-person law practice to one of the larger boutique immigration firms in North Carolina. 

I’ve learned many lessons along the way. 

Here are five important ones:

Lesson #1 – Start Slowly! 

If you’re going to start your own law practice, you are automatically going to think about expenses.  How are you going to pay the bills?  That will become your number one focus.

It shouldn’t be.

Yes, you need to pay the bills, but you also want to provide excellent service to your clients.  You want to start slowly, and learn your area of practice well.  Take fewer cases and develop relationships with those clients.  If you do good work, people will talk.  Your patience will pay dividends in the future.

As I mentioned earlier, I was lucky to have good mentors.  However, I was also proactive.  I reached out to other attorneys to get advice on cases.  I found them to be extremely helpful.  Remember, every seasoned attorney was once inexperienced, and they tend not to forget.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Lesson #2 – Keep Your Overhead Low

When I started firm, I bought a used desk for $50 and rented a small office with no windows.  It was nothing fancy.  That was back in 1995.

Today, our technological advances make it possible to practice law without a formal office.  In fact, I know attorneys who work from home or rent a small office-sharing suite and they do just fine.  Unlike many years ago, I am not convinced that clients are as impressed by the décor of the office or the quality of your suit.  Some clients will be, but most of them are focused on one thing – results. 

If you are going to invest in an office, office furniture, equipment and other things, make sure to be frugal.  You want to worry less about meeting your monthly overhead and worry more about doing good work and developing good relationships with your clients.  I guarantee that it will pay off over time.

Lesson #3 – Be Wary of Debt

When you start a law practice, or any business for that matter, there’s a very good likelihood that you will take on some initial debt.  Where else are you going to get that start-up capital as a young attorney except from family, credit cards or banks?  When you borrow this start-up capital, keep it as low as possible.  More importantly, work hard to pay it off as soon as possible.

I’ve always been very conservative when running my law practice.  Even though we have used Lines of Credit to operate at times, we have mostly stayed away from it.  Once you have debt, it is automatic human behavior to be beholden to it.  (Or given recent events in our country, perhaps it isn’t!)  As a business-person, you want flexibility.  Businesses should be nimble, be able to move in one direction or the next quickly, and often debt is the shackle that prevents that from happening. 

Keep that in mind.

If you need to use debt to operate your business, make sure to use it wisely and pay it off quickly!

Lesson #4 – Don’t be Afraid of Making Mistakes

When I was about to open my law practice, I asked a friend of mine, a Managing Partner of a large law firm, two simple questions:

“Do you think I know enough?” and “What if I make a mistake?”

My friend responded quickly, “you’ll never know enough and you’re always going to make some mistakes.”  He added, “it’s how you deal with those mistakes that matters.”

Given that my friend had practiced law for over 30 years, this was a strong message.  He said that even after 30 years of being a prominent attorney, he still didn’t know enough about the law.  He knows more, but he’s still constantly learning new things.  That’s how complicated laws, and the practice of law, can be. 

So if you don’t know something, it’s okay.  You’re not alone.   Learn it and move on because the education process never ends.  And if you make a mistake, don’t worry.  We are human and we all make them.   Just learn from those mistakes and more important, learn how to deal with them properly as it relates to yourself, your practice and your clients.

Lesson #5 – Hire Wisely  

There’s a saying that people can tell a lot about a person by the company they keep.  It’s not only true in personal situations, but it’s true in a business environment as well.   Clients can tell a lot about you and your law practice by the people you hire, and who you hire can make a major difference in the success or failure of your law firm.

I’ve always looked for a few simple qualities when hiring people. First, does the person generally have a positive outlook on things?  Are they a positive person?  You don’t want to hire negative people.  One negative person can bring down the collective ‘mood’ of an office full of positive people!  That will negatively impact teamwork and productivity. 

Also, look for people who are smart, dedicated and have demonstrated an ability to be team players.  The latter is extremely important.   When everyone contributes and works together, you are generally going to have an office that is extremely efficient and effective.  I’ve always felt that every position in an office is equally important, so make sure to hire wisely in all of them.

Bonus Lesson – Have Fun!

These five lessons are important, but as I was writing this article, I remembered a sixth and most important lesson –have fun!

When you start and run a law practice, you’re most likely going to be working 7 days a week, especially in the beginning.  The hard work never ends.  It takes an incredible amount of effort, dedication, commitment and time to operate a business and do it well.   Make sure to take time to enjoy what you do, and especially the people you do it with.

When I think back over 15 years of law practice, some of my most vivid memories are the fun times our office enjoyed together.  Whether it’s our office Christmas parties, or office outings, or happy hours after work, we have done a lot of fun things together and have enjoyed each other’s company on a number of occasions.  This makes for great memories, great camaraderie, and will result in great teamwork.

If you decide to start a law practice, good luck!  Hopefully, at the end of the day, you can sing what Frank Sinatra so famously sang in his day:

Regrets, I’ve had a few

But then again, too few to mention

I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption

I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway

And more, much more than this, I did it my way

Diversity Visa Lottery Registration Through Nov. 2010

October 21st, 2010
posted by at 3:46 pm

-          By Murali Bashyam, Esq.

During a recent event for the non-profit Friends Unite, Africa Economic Foundation founder, Dr. Philip Mwalali, told us about the small village in Africa called Kilisa with very little resources where he grew up. He told us how he worked very hard and became prominent doctor in Kenya.  He was motivated to become a doctor because he wanted to give back to his village and help them improve their quality of life.

Dr. Mwalali now lives in the United States. He and his family were chosen for U.S. residency through what is called the Diversity Immigration Visa Lottery program.  Today, he, along with many others in the U.S. and in Kenya, continue to help the villagers and children in Kilisa have a better life.

This is a real-life example of how this program can really make a difference in the lives of a wide spectrum of people.  It is also an example that the program is available to a diverse group of intending immigrants.

The Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) program is a U.S. Congressionally-mandated lottery program for receiving U.S. Permanent Resident Status (green card).  It is administered on an annual basis, and makes available 50,000 permanent residency visas to persons from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.  Currently, Africa and Europe receive about 80% of the visas in the lottery.

In recent years, the DV program has come under fire from anti-immigrant groups.  Their main argument is that the program provides U.S. permanent resident status to unskilled or low skilled people, and those people do not benefit the United States.  They also say that it is easy for terrorists to apply under the program and obtain a U.S. green card.  Of course, like all other residency cases, DV winners must go through an extensive FBI background check before getting U.S. resident status.

Dr. Mwalali was an educated doctor before he even entered the U.S. as a permanent resident.  As with any immigration program, there will be flaws.  But we should recognize the good that these programs do instead of constantly focusing on those flaws.

As John Wilcock, a visa specialist with the State Department, said during a recent Washington Foreign Press Center media briefing, as he explained the 1990 law that created a new class of diversity immigrants, “The idea was to diversify the immigrant pool.”

The entry period to apply for the DV-2012 program is from October 5, 2010 to November 3, 2010. We’ve included all of the registration details on our Immigration News Blog.

Beauty Without Borders

September 3rd, 2010
posted by at 6:55 pm

Working in an immigration law office one comes to appreciate multiculturalism and better understand how and why top talent from abroad would strive for temporary and permanent transfers to the United States.

So, last week, as I watched 83 representatives from across the globe compete for the Miss Universe title, I wondered how the competition fared on the global stage. Were any of our clients watching along with me? Pageants take place all over the world and, surely, draw audiences internationally.

One thing I do know is that whether one is watching the Miss Universe pageant in Puerto Rico or Pennsylvania, one thing remains the same; that audience is watching because in some way they identify with the region, values, language and culture that those delegates represent.

I’m of Hispanic descent and like many Latin American women have followed beauty pageants my whole life. It’s part of our culture. Every little town or “barrio” across Latin America elects some sort of queen or princess as an ambassador. A representative of the beauty of that region.

Sure a pageant is a “beauty contest” which takes physical appearance into consideration when awarding the winner with the crown and title, but that’s watering it down just a bit.

Candidates go through meticulous physical and mental training exercises, raise money, define campaign goals, civic engagement platforms. If the delegate is “elected” she (or he, remember California’s Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was a beauty, um, king), is given a voice to speak for publicly and the opportunity to evoke passionate interests and involvement in social and political issues.

Just as our town, state and federal representatives are typically elected because they reflect their constituents, pageant contestants are representatives of their communities and selected because they embody the people that they represent feel that they reflect their best selves, whether that be their values, culture, their appearance, or their commitment to the community that they represent. All the while maintaining an enviable appearance and regal posture.

Sure, just like some politicians and other people of power, we get a few lemons in the bunch here and there. Unfortunately, those seem to be the ones who get most of the attention. Every once in awhile, however, a leader comes along with a platform that inspires us and makes us proud.

Since Miss Mexico, Jimena Navarrete, took the Miss Universe crown in Las Vegas last week I have been following her press coverage. She quickly made it clear what she plans to promote as the world’s newest Miss Universe – her home country of Mexico. “I want the whole world to know about my country and my people,” the Guadalajara native said.

People are paying attention, perhaps because Mexico is center stage in the news these days; immigration, drug cartels, 200th anniversary of Mexican Independence this month (No, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day).

Whatever the reason, it makes me happy and proud that a fellow Latina is setting out to do what I believe the Miss Universe pageant truly intends to do. Use the international title and platform to bring awareness to the rest of the world. Miss Universe is a beauty pageant that celebrates the cultural diversity that makes up the world. It isn’t about who feel in her 4 ½ inch heels on stage this year.

“Her triumph is a source of pride and satisfaction for all Mexicans, who see in her the fruits of perseverance,” Mexican President Felipe Calderon said in a statement. Calderon said on Twitter that her victory would help Mexico’s image as a country.

After the pageant, she answered questions about Arizona’s recent immigration law.

“Every country has the right to impose and enact their laws,” she said, wearing her new sash and sparkling tiara. “But I tell you that all the Mexicans and the Latins that are living here in the United States are hardworking people – people who want to improve on their quality of life.”

Each year, these contestants and their families navigate the U.S. Immigration system in order to represent their region each year.

Miss Thailand Fonthip Watcharatrakul won Miss Photogenic Universe and a second award for having the best national costume. First runner-up was Miss Jamaica Yendi Phillipps, while second runner-up was Miss Australia Jesinta Campbell. Fakih who represented the U.S. in the pageant, a 24-year-old Lebanese immigrant from Dearborn, Mich., spurred celebrations among Arab-Americans when she won Miss USA.

Last year, Stefania Fernandez, Miss Universe 2009, was approved for a green card based on her extraordinary ability and global philanthropic efforts. Fernandez is now proudly on her way to U.S. citizenship.

This is not the first nor will it be the last time that immigration and the beauty industry collide, I’m just glad to know that platforms still exist for others to send a representative, an ambassador, to the U.S. to demonstrate the culture, beauty, diligence, and humanity, which is sometimes hard for many in America to appreciate.

You Can Never Outgrow Your Need For Purpose

August 13th, 2010
posted by at 4:47 pm

As you get older, it sometimes seems that there are fewer things to learn. No more school. You know your job like the back of your hand. You play the same games on the computer.

Well, I recently had an opportunity that taught me much about life outside the United States. And it opened my eyes to the reality that there is SO much I still don’t know.

Murali and I recently returned from a trip to Kenya. Besides the safari – which was absolutely fantastic – we spent some time visiting with people involved in projects we’ve partnered with as part of the non-profit that we built, Friends Unite.

We went to Kibera, outside Nairobi, which is one of the largest slums in the world. There we met with officials from Carolina for Kibera. This UNC Global initiative, is a non-profit organization that has set an exemplary model for how just a few people can create astounding change for those in need.

They showed us some of their youth programs, and then took us to the medical center they started. It has since been taken over somewhat by a larger non-profit, but that is exactly what we’d like to do – start programs that are so successful they become self-sustaining. The building itself is a clean, sturdy, shining beacon in the midst of overwhelming poverty. The people, dedicated professionals with optimism beyond compare.

We also drove out to Kilisa, a small village a few hours east of Nairobi (in the US, it wouldn’t have taken a few hours, but we’ll talk about Kenyan highways some other time!) to meet with the Kilisa Village Development Community (“KVDC”). What they’ve accomplished already, and what they’ve planned for the future, is remarkable. With so few resources, they’ve managed to redirect their path from one of stagnant poverty which would be expected in an area like this. Instead, they are now on one with the potential for education, enterprise, and sustainable growth.

So what did I learn? Sometimes community-based change does not have to take a government, or years of political negotiating. Water can be found and harnessed from underneath a dry riverbed. A school full of children with a desire to learn does not need a playground, projectors, or even many books. And…. we are very lucky to live in a country with natural resources that allow us to concentrate on more than just survival.

Check out the video of our trip to a school in Kilisa, that our colleague Jessica Coscia produced.

Asante sana!

Thank you for being a friend

July 20th, 2010
posted by at 7:05 pm

Bashyam Spiro may have been around since the 90’s, but we have definitely taken the leap into the 21st century and we strive to stay ahead with new social media trends to connect with the online community. In addition to our new website and firm blog, our Facebook and Twitter pages have made it easy for us to post updates about what we’re doing and to communicate with the public.

Our Facebook wall, with its notes and musings, is informative and engaging. We have also launched a new video platform on our Facebook page which emphasizes our strong commitment to video as an important educational medium. We invite you to check out our immigration news stories and videos and to submit your comments.

In an effort to increase our number of Facebook fans; raise awareness of BashyamSpiro.com as an interactive immigration education and news center; and engage the Facebook community in a conversation about the U.S. immigration process, we have set a goal to increase our Facebook fan-base from 79 up to 100 fans by the end of August 2010.

In addition to you becoming our fan and follower, we need your help spreading the word. After all, they are called “social” sites so let’s get social.

So now what are you waiting for! Follow us, become a fan and be a part of the immigration conversation.

Bashyam Spiro is happy to be your friend.