By Atty. Paul Choi
(Paul Choi will answer all questions regarding immigration for FREE. Contact him at pchoi @pchoilaw.com or at 818 714-2226. As always, consultations in office are still FREE)
Question: My mother who is a lawful permanent resident of the U.S, petitioned both my brother and sister who are living in the Philippines eight years ago. We received a notice recently from the National Visa Center stating that we have to pay the Affidavit of Support, (AOS) fees which are something like $800. I was ready to pay this amount when suddenly my mother died. I was told that this may affect the petitions of my siblings. Is this true?
What can I do? Should I pay the $800 to the NVC? What happens to the petitions now that my mother died? Can I be substituted as a sponsor for them instead? One Attorney in Los Angeles said that he can fix this case but he wants $20,000. What should I do?
Answer: Though we always think that once a petition has been filed for us by our relatives in the US, there are only very minor roadblocks we can expect along the way. This is the case most especially if the petition has approved and has been forwarded to the National Visa Center waiting for priority date. Nothing else should worry us and we can just go on living while the priority date becomes current. Or so we think.
Unfortunately, there are cases wherein the petitioner dies before his relatives can come to the U.S. This is often due to the fact that US immigration process has a huge backlog in most countries and that it takes years before a visa becomes available for an applicant. During this long wait, if the Petitioner dies, the petition by law is automatically invalidated and cancelled. A lot of beneficiaries of US immigration petitions, like you, are saddened and surprised that the petition for their loved ones is no longer valid once the petitioner dies. So, if the petitioner dies before the beneficiaries enter the U.S. as immigrants, the case is over.
There is NO need to pay the NVC any fees because 1) the fees will not be refunded, 2)the U.S. Embassy will no longer process the application once it learns that the Petitioner died. The Embassy will instead, send the petition back to the USCIS office that originally approved it back in the states.
In most cases, that is the end of the line. The beneficiaries, even though they waited patiently for years and years can no longer come to the U.S. You cannot step into the shoes of the petitioner and be a substitute sponsor. However, there is a way to “appeal” this revocation of the petition. The process is called a “Request for Humanitarian Reinstatement” or also called “Request for Humanitarian Revalidation”. Humanitarian Reinstatement was made available by immigration regulations to cover these kinds of situations. It is entirely discretionary with the USCIS and is not guaranteed, but if you can show that there are circumstances justifying the reinstatement of the petition, the USCIS can revalidate and approve the petition and the beneficiaries can come to the U.S. as if the petitioner were still alive. The USCIS usually looks at the following factors: 1) disruption of an established family unit; (2) hardship to U.S. citizen or LPR family; (3) age and health of beneficiary; (4) length of beneficiary’s residence if any in the United States; (5) whether beneficiary has a foreign residence (if in the U.S.) to which he can return; (6) undue delay by USCIS or the embassy in processing the petition or visa; and (7) extent of beneficiary’s family ties in the United States.
For a Humanitarian Reinstatement to be applicable, the petition must have first been approved before the death the petitioner. Secondly, the beneficiary must arrange to have a substitute sponsor who may file for the required affidavit of support. This must be someone who can establish the means to support the beneficiaries with an annual income amount equal to at least 125 percent of the Federal Poverty line.
The qualified substitute sponsor must be a close relative such as the spouse, parent, mother-in-law, father-in-law, sibling, child (if at least 18 years of age), son, daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, grandparent, grandchild of a sponsored alien or a legal guardian of the sponsored alien. Friends and distant relatives cannot qualify.
As far as paying an attorney $20,000 for submitting a request for reinstatement, I would question any lawyer who charges such exorbitant fees. Would you pay $1000 for a $1 lottery ticket without a guarantee of winning? Sure, there is a lot of work involved but there is no need to gouge or take advantage of persons who are suffering the loss of a loved one. I, for one, do not practice law that way. I would be weary of anyone who says “it is a sure thing” or “I guarantee it”. By law, reinstatement is discretionary. No one, can say if a request will be approved and it is unethical to claim it is a “sure thing.” Stay away from such boastful claims. You will be $20,000 richer and a lot happier.
Paul Choi is an immigration attorney and professor of law located at 16000 Ventura Blvd. Ste 1201, Encino, CA. 91436. Atty Choi will answer all questions regarding immigration and naturalization for free. Address questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 818 714-2226. Atty Choi is pleased to announce that his administrator is Philip Abramowitz who has 30 years of experience in immigration law.