Visas & Viruses

How to Navigate Your Visa or “Non-Visa” ESTA Status During a Pandemic

“All flights are cancelled; I am here on a 90 day visa waiver; and it expires next week what should I do”? These are questions our lawyers at ScottVassell & LeeCC answer daily. We hope this short article post will reduce anxiety and allow you to safeguard your current U.S. ESTA visa waiver or temporary visa status set to expire amidst the pandemic.

It is very important to keep an eye on ‘future reentry’ to the United States versus the short-term crises. While overstaying a visa or visa waiver without acting seems plausible due to COVID-19, it should not be an option.  Temporary visas are issued by the Department of State (“DOS”) at U.S. Consulates abroad. The decision by DOS to extend a visa in the future is solely discretionary with no right of appeal. It is therefore incumbent upon any individual in the United States holding temporary visa status or registered in the ESTA visa waiver program to take aggressive steps to protect your status.

ESTA Visa Waiver Program

The ESTA visa waiver program is largely administered by U.S. Customs Border and Patrol (“CBP”), a division of the Department of Homeland Security. You should seek immigration counsel’s legal advice on how to manage your ESTA visa waiver, since this is not an actual visa. Our office connects directly with a land border or with U.S. CBP at the airports to document our clients’ visa waiver dilemma. We request government approval to remain in the United States.

The ESTA program requires a foreign national to sign a “contract” to waive all rights to courts and appeals if one overstays his or her visa. In circumstances beyond a client’s control, however, we have connected with the U.S. Ports of Entry through CBP to ensure our clients do not forfeit legal rights and their ability to use the ESTA program in the future.

Temporary Visa Status

While U.S. Immigration laws allow for an individual in temporary visitor visa status (B-1/B-2, F-1, H-1B, J-1 Au Pair, etc.) to later argue why he or she overstayed their visa, the U.S. Consulate abroad may still deny reentry. It can get complicated for a temporary visitor to reenter the United States in the future.  Rather, visa extensions may be obtained by hiring a U.S. immigration attorney to renew one’s visa in advance of expiration with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services.

We invite you to contact our Immigration lawyers by emailing or visit us for our contact information conveniently listed. We offer an initial free 20 min video and in-office consultation.

Saying Goodbye to Your Beloved Au Pair

When Saying Goodbye to Your Beloved Au Pair Causes You to Weep-Can You Help Them Stay? We have had the privilege of working with many families over the years who have hired Au Pairs to care for their young children. But then, the working relationship becomes more than that of an employee-employer. In fact, the Au Pair becomes just like part of the family. At the end of the authorized J-1 Visa Work Period as an au pair, it’s time to say good bye and everyone starts to weep.  I mean everyone… the children, the parents and the Au Pair.  Believing there is no way for the Au Pair to remain in the United States, and desperate for options, the lawyers here at ScottVassell Law Group have successfully navigated the complex J-1 Visa Department of State Rules to help.

Specifically, we have helped au pair’s remain in the U.S. with their “new found” family through a change of status. If you want to learn how we do this, stay tuned as we go into our  Immigration Classroom and explain!

From Thrilling to Chilling I-140 Employment Based Sponsorship



Your U.S. employer has agreed to foot all the legal fees to sponsor you in Employment Based (“EB”) Permanent Status in the United States. What could possibly go wrong? Your position is approved as an EB-2 or EB-3 category I-140 for adjustment of status purposes; and now all you have to do is sit back and wait as your employer and their lawyer handle ‘everything’. Well… not so fast. If you want to know the risks associated with having your U.S. employer’s lawyer handle your delicate status in the United States…keep listening!

E-2 Investor Visa Joy



With the rising popularity of Shark Tank, Creatives, Entrepreneurs & IPOs being lauded as lucrative career goals for young people; the ability to forge international business relationships has become invaluable. The reality is that young people connect with each other internationally everyday, and they are starting to realize they’re not bound within his or her own country when leveraging resources and strategic partnerships to launch a start-up company. Keep listening to learn more!

When a Non-US Citizen Needs to Hire Both an Immigration & Criminal Attorney…Is it Possible to Hire Two for the Price of One?

In short, the answer is yes! But it’s not a ‘simple’ yes as explained below. A non-U.S. citizen residing in the United States is always subject to severe immigration consequences whenever facing criminal charges such as larceny, drug use (including marijuana), or driving under the influence.

As an illustration, a student who is in F-1 status for his or her graduate program makes the mistake of getting in their car for a short drive home after having a couple drinks.  The blue lights flash, and next thing…he or she is detained and charged with a DUI. To complicate things, the student’s I-20 just expired and the new I-20 was set to issue in the next few days. As standard, ICE Enforcement & Removal Office (‘ERO’) scans the State criminal charges for the day, and discovers graduate student. A Federal detainer is then placed on student by ICE-ERO.

First and foremost, the student should promptly accept the offer by the State Judge for a Public Defender ‘free’ of charge as a matter of law.  In contrast, immigration lawyers are not free and seasoned immigration lawyers who can actually navigate the cross section of immigration and criminal law are rare and costly.

As soon as a Public Defender is assigned for free, the student would hire an experienced Immigration attorney to defend against removal/deportation and the possibility of a permanent bar to reentry to the United States.  Once the student hires immigration counsel committed to working closely with the Public Defender for every step of the criminal case, the result is ‘two lawyers hired for the price of on!!  The graduate student would pay for one lawyer, but have both immigration and criminal counsel retained for his or her complex legal defense.

ScottVassell Lawyers have years of experience in Crimmigration law (the combination of immigration and criminal law matters). All attorneys are members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association-AILA.  For detained clients, same day appointments are scheduled with our lawyers whenever possible for an initial no fee consultation.

We serve immigration clients across the United States & globally from our offices located in Washington D.C, Virginia and Maryland. As a full-service immigration practice, we not only represent cases in Immigration courts, but also have over 22 years of experience in representing businesses, entrepreneurs, investors, individuals and families U.S. visa case matters. You may schedule an appointment by emailing; or visit  us at

(Initial 20 minute Free Video or In Office Consultations Available upon Request).

Does Your Immigration Lawyer Have The Deer In The Headlight Look?

Does your immigration lawyer look at you like a ‘deer who has been caught in headlights’ when asked about the following immigration solutions discussed below? If so, you may need to get a second opinion in one of the most complex areas of law in the United States… Immigration law matters.

If you want to learn more about these solutions…Keep Reading!!

Our Immigration legal team believes finding legal solutions for our clients is highly complex and seriously impacts lives when a solution is overlooked. As a result, our law firm has limited our law practice to U.S. Immigration matters for almost two decades.

Here we share a checklist from our law firm that lists some of the legal options you should review if you or someone you know is out of status, or has come into the country uninspected without a visa. Our purpose here is to  make you aware and spot issues with your immigration attorney.  Based on this list, I will go ahead and point out only a few of the legal options on this list for timesake. Okay, let’s get started!!

  1. Nicaraguan Act ( NACARA).  Also called the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act it was a relief available in the 1990s to certain Central and South Americans.  If an individual missed the application window, the good news is that the benefit is retroactive and you may still apply today for  NACARA based Permanent Resident Status if you lived here during the required time period.
  1. Child of a successful NACARA applicant. Even the child of a successful NACARA applicant who was a minor back in the 1990s, may be eligible for Permanent Resident Status based on his or her  parents successful application. This is a very powerful form of relief and should not be missed.
  1. Employment Sponsorship. This option allows a U.S. Employer who wants to sponsor an undocumented individual to do so in special circumstances.  However, a special waiver is required in order to except the years of unlawful presence in the United States. Employment is one of the most popular ways, next to family sponsorship, when an undocumented individual is looking for a path to Permanent Resident Status.
  1. Derivative Citizenship.
  1. U Visa where a crime was committed against non-resident in USA. If at anytime a crime is committed against an undocumented person residing in the United States, it is important to report the crime and cooperate with police authorities. Failure to do so will cause a victim of crime who is undocumented to miss out an avenue to receive permanent resident status with the help of a seasoned immigration lawyer. Don’t forget that sexual harassment and abuse is a crime and being undocumented does not mean you have to endure a crime being committed against you.
  1. Non pro tunc Motion to forgive falling out of status
  1. Family Sponsorship
  1. Asylum even if after one year requirement
  1. T Visa (Trafficking Visa).  Trafficking occurs in a variety of ways. If you have been hired as an au pair, diplomatic Visa helper, or any Visa where you are being forced to work way beyond the scope of specified job without additional pay, or you have been used to perform illegal activity against your will and under threat or duress..a T visa based ‘Green Card’ is a strong possibility not to be overlooked.
  1. Marriage to existing U.S. Fiance
  1. S Visa if you are a key witness and will cooperate with the legal authorities
  1. Self petitioning VAWA if you have been abused, abandoned & mistreated by U.S. spouse.
  1. Ineffective counsel. If an attorney has caused you to be out of status a remedy is possible.
  1. A National Interest Waiver is available if you have high level education or a cause you have pursued where you have impacted the United States public interest; and you have been recognized nationally or internationally for your contribution.

There are also the below Waivers to forgive criminal, unlawful presence, misrepresentation and so much more:

  1. I-601/I-601A Waiver
  1. Criminal Waivers

I hope this list can empower anyone who does not know where to begin in resolving his or her out of status issues. Schedule an appointment and meet with experienced legal counsel today. Even if your lawyer gives you the “deer in headlights” look, don’t give up; and seek another legal opinion elsewhere.

All of our lawyers are Members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. We serve clients throughout the United States & Internationally from our offices based in Washington D.C., Maryland & Virginia. Thank you for (listening). This has been ScottVassell Law U.S. Immigration Minutes.

The Six Month Travel Game

Becoming a U.S. Permanent Resident of the United States is a very exciting accomplishment until you can’t find work, qualified affordable child care, or a close family member falls ill unexpectedly. These are a few of the reasons Permanent Residents often leave the United States for extensive periods of time despite the risk of abandoning their U.S. Permanent Resident Status.

Unfortunately, it is a myth that once a U.S. permanent resident you come back every six months there is no risk to being stripped of U.S. status by U.S. Customs Border & Patrol (“CBP”).

It’s important to note that the requirements to not lose one’s permanent resident status and the rules to apply eventually for Naturalization are very different. First, Permanent Residency requires a reentry permit, proof of continuous residence. Working with experienced immigration legal counsel is an essential step before relocating abroad for even  for a short period of time.

Naturalization, on the other hand, requires consideration of an N-470 to preserve time counting towards citizenship and the guidelines are very strict to be eligible for Citizenship after extended travel abroad. It is encouraged to always apply for I-131 reentry permit. However, to apply for citizenship one must demonstrate the following:

1) Resided continuously in the United States for at least 5 as a lawful permanent Resident;

2) Have resided for at least 3 months in the State or USCIS District where residency is claimed before filing for Citizenship (N-400);

3)Have resided continuously in the United States from the date of filing N-400 up to the time of administration of the Oath of Allegiance and Be physically present in the United States for at least 21/2 years at the time of filing Form N-400.

To balance and ensure that U.S. Immigration laws are satisfied when traveling abroad, always consult with an experienced immigration lawyer who will explain the overlapping and independent issues between ‘not abandoning’ U.S. Permanent Status and becoming ‘disqualified from’ applying for Naturalization Citizenship.

The Critical Link Between a Conditional Green Card and US Citizenship

The Critical Link between Conditional Green Card & Applying for U.S. Citizenship

The N-400 Application to become a U.S. Citizen can be a landmine for Permanent Residents who do not understand the critical link between the I-751 Removal of Conditions and Citizenship process. An N-400 Naturalization Application often resembles an audit. Hopefully, with the help of experienced immigration counsel you will file for Naturalization successfully without delay or surprise

Winning the H1-B Lottery

Recently, we had an individual who came to our office flabbergasted that despite winning the H-1B visa lottery; and getting a chance to legally work as a professional in the United States, she was ultimately denied a work visa.. Her biggest  mistake, was to prepare and file her visa application pro se without any guidance from legal counsel leaving her unaware of the unique ‘counting’ process essential for a successful grant of H-1B work visa status.

Keep Reading and I’ll explain:

In order for an H-1B visa application to be receipted and processed by the Department of Homeland Security  or DHS, a foreign national applicant must compete against thousands of applicants from all over the world for a limited number of visas under the H-1B cap. However, many individuals end up ‘giving away’ their visa ‘win’  by not properly counting and completing the beginning and end date of their H-1B visa application properly. Let me explain how this works:

The First step in applying for an H-1B visa is getting certified by the Department of Labor. This application  is called a Labor Condition Application ( known as LCA). However, it can be submitted no earlier than 183 days (approximately 6 months) before the start date of the job. Once the LCA is certified by DOL, the next step is to file the  I-129 H-1B visa application. But the calculation of dates on this form is different from the LCA to ensure the maximum allowable time on the visa.

Since these two applications have different counting requirements, it is important to note when completing the LCA and I-129 that while your start dates may be different, your ending dates must be the same. Ask your immigration attorney to explain and calculate these two separate forms to reconcile the  counting process in order to be approved for H-1B work visa status.

Well that’s it for now, H-1B visas continue to be the most popular and sought after work visa, and to stand a chance in winning the visa lottery, learn how to count your dates by consulting with legal counsel.

Our lawyers here at ScottVassell Law Group have over 21 years experience practicing immigration law, and we are a full service immigration law firm. We are also members of the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association. You may contact us at or visit to call the office nearest to you.