New Look to Green Cards & EAD Cards  

USCIS will start issuing redesigned cards with enhanced graphics to applicants.  The new cards will start being issued on May 1, 2017.

These redesigns use enhanced graphics and fraud-resistant security features to create cards that are highly secure and more tamper-resistant to prevent document tampering, counterfeiting and fraud; than the ones currently in use.

The Redesigned Cards

The new Green Cards and EADs will:

  • Display the individual’s photos on both sides;
  • Show a unique graphic image and color palette:
  • Green Cards will have an image of the Statue of Liberty and a predominately green palette;
  • EAD cards will have an image of a bald eagle and a predominately red palette;
  • Have embedded holographic images; and
  • No longer display the individual’s signature.

Also, Green Cards will no longer have an optical stripe on the back.

How To Tell If Your Card Is Valid

Some Green Cards and EADs issued after May 1, 2017, may still display the existing design format as USCIS will continue using existing card stock until current supplies are depleted. Both the existing and the new Green Cards and EADs will remain valid until the expiration date shown on the card.

Certain EADs held by individuals with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and other designated categories have been automatically extended beyond the validity date on the card.

Employers, please note that both the older version and the new cards are acceptable for Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, E-Verify, and Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE).

Some older Green Cards do not have an expiration date.  These older Green Cards without an expiration date remain valid.

Individuals who have Green Cards without an expiration date may want to consider applying for a replacement card bearing an expiration date. Obtaining the replacement card will reduce the likelihood of fraud or tampering if the card is ever lost or stolen.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA ▪ nsm@mlolaw.us ▪ Office: 314.932.7111 & 314.402.2024

Disclaimer:  Not meant as legal advice! For information purposes only.

 

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10 Reasons For A New OCI Card

 

 

1.  When you are issued a new passport.2. If you are younger than 21, OCI documents must be re-issued each time you get a new passport.

3. If you are are 50 years of age or older, OCI documents must be re-issued once after the issuance of a new passport.

4. If your OCI card was issued for the first time after you were 50,  then you do not need a new OCI card.

5. If you are between the ages of 21 to 49 years of age, there is no need to re-issue OCI documents each time you are issued a new passport.  But you can request the consulate to re-issue the OCI documents with the new passport number.

6. You need a new OCI if there is a change in personal particulars.

7. You need a new OCI if you lose or your OCI documents are damaged.

8. You need a new OCI if you made a mistake in your personal particulars while filing the application online.

9. You need a new OCI if you change your address or occupation.

10. It is less expensive to apply for a new visa for your minor children born in the United States, than to re-apply each time their passport changes.

Nalini S Mahadevan, Esq

314-932-7111/314-402-2024 office   nsm@mlolaw.us   www.mlolaw.us

Disclaimer: Information here is not legal advice and does not constitute a client attorney relationship.

 

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I Lost My Indian Passport — Help!

Recently, I have been getting referrals from clients about losing their passport from India. Now, losing an Indian passport is a greater deal than losing your US Passport, because there is an established procedure for recovery and reissue of a US Passport.

But recovery and reissue of an Indian Passport is another matter.

The fear of clients who contact me is that they will be turned into either ICE or USCIS because they are out of service. The good news is that there is now a procedure to reapply for a lost passport. However, it is complex.

In my experience, there is a better procedure if your application is filed as a walk-in rather than mailing in the application.

The next complexity is added because the Indian consulate does not update their website often. The result is that the information on the website is often unreliable or out of date. If my client is traveling from outside the consulate area, then I suggest planning the trip in advance to allow for contingencies, such as insufficient paperwork.

Contact us for further information.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney St. Louis, Missouri
nsm@mlolaw.us

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The information is not meant to create a client-attorney relationship. This blog is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Situations may differ based on the facts.

Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

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What An Employer Should Do Now that H-1B Visas are Over

As of December 1, 2011, the US Consulate General in Chennai will process all Blanket L Visas. The New Delhi US Embassy and Mumbai, Kolkata and Hyderabad US Consulates no longer process petitions for Blanket L Visas. Visas for dependent spouse and children (L-2) and individual visas (L-1A and L-1B) can still be processed at the Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai and New Delhi posts.

What is a Blanket L Visa?

A Blanket L visa is available to employees whose employers hold such a designation to file L visas under a Blanket L permit, issued by the Department of State. To be eligible, an employer must be in business in the US for more than one year; have three or more domestic or foreign, subsidiaries or affiliates; and be engaged in commercial trade or services. The employer must also have annual US sales of $25 million; a US workforce of 1,000 employees; or the employer should have received at least 10 L petitions in the last 12 months. An employer may be in danger of losing their Blanket L permit if they file fewer than 10 petitions in the prior year. Only commercial employers can be approved for a Blanket L permit; non-profits are not eligible.

Blanket L visas are for employees who have, in the three past years, been employed abroad for one year and will continue to be employed by the same company in the US. Employees can either be petitioned individually or under a blanket, and must meet the criteria of a “specialized knowledge” professional, executive or manager.

Three Major Issues

1. Will the L visa employee work at client sites?

If your answer is yes, then you must establish an employer-employee relationship during the time the employee is working at a third party worksite on behalf of the petitioner (employer). If the employee is to work in the office of the L visa employer, then that fact should be made very clear both in the documentation and at the interview. Consular officers are very concerned about L visas being misused by employers and being used when H-1B visas are no longer available.

At the US Consulate, the employee is often asked to go up to a window to answer questions. The interview is about 5 minutes, and very often consular officers may not have the time to read the entire petition. If the employee is to work on a particular project at a site other than the US employer’s offices, that fact should also be presented both at the interview and substantiated in the application.

L visa employees must be ready to answer any and all questions, and justify the reason for working at a end-client’s office instead of working at the L visa employer’s office.

2. Is the salary of an ordinary programmer or of a specialist in an L-1B visa category?

Salary earnings in India are indicative of the level of services an employee provides for his/her company; there is certainly a difference between IT workers who complete general services and those who have specialized knowledge. If the applicant is earning a sizeable salary, it is important to state the applicant’s salary in the support letter; salaries are often indicative of a specialist eligible for an L-1B visa instead of a programmer more suited to H-1B visa category status.

It is these distinctions that have caused a rise in the denial rate, 27%, of all filed L visa applications.

3. Is the applicant’s work in India not indicative of a specialized job?

The consular officers will most likely deduce that the applicant has no specialized knowledge if the applicant’s work in India is based in general services. This can include testing; enterprise recourse planning maintenance; or execution of Oracle, Microsoft or SAP software.

Experience

L-1B visa holders are supposed to be specialists; if the applicant has a three-year degree and one year of experience, then the consular officer is not likely to consider the applicant experienced enough to warrant an L-1B visa approval. The standard by which L visa applications are approved is “clearly approvable”. Hence, the burden of proving L visa eligibility lies with the employer. If the L visa has been approved by USCIS, the US Consulate may grant the L visa unless special circumstances exist, or the consulate determines more evidence is required.

We live in a climate where no USCIS application is sacrosanct, and where the Department of State often re-adjudicates USCIS approvals.

B-1 In Lieu of H-1B

The B-1 In Lieu of H-1B visa is a hybrid visa, a cross between a business visa and an employment visa in the US. The employee with H-1B visa qualifications comes to the US instead on a business visa (B-1), applies for the visa at the consulate and declares intent at the border. This employee cannot receive any remuneration in the US other than an expense allowance.

However, this visa is under attack. Employers should demonstrate that there are unexpected circumstances and an urgent need for the employee to obtain a B-1 Visa In Lieu of an H-1B. The controversy arises over the extent to which the B-1 visa is used or misused in lieu of an H-1B. Even if the consulate grants this visa, it is likely that the visa holder may encounter difficulty at the US port of entry.

True need for the visa must be well-planned to demonstrate the benefit of the short-term visit to the foreign employer, as opposed to the US client.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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Visiting India

India is a very beautiful, colorful place–but like many countries, tourists must apply for a visitor’s visa in order to gain entrance. A foreigner is only granted a tourist visa if he/she does not possess property or a job in India, and whose only goal is recreational: sight-seeing and meeting friends and family.

Apply by Mail

To apply by mail, applicants should fill out and print the application with all the required documents. Send it through a carrier with trackable mail: FedEx, UPS or USPS. Applications sent by mail will take 7-9 business days to process. Once the India Visa Center receives an application, they will notify the applicant of receipt via email and attach an individualized URL that allows the applicant to check on the status of his/her application.

Apply in Person

To apply in person, visit the nearest India Visa Center; bring all required documents and a completed application.

Same Day Visas

Sam day visa applications for US-born US citizens will only be accepted in person by appointment at the India Visa Center. Applicants can choose an appointment time when filling the online application, and will need to pay the application fee in cash or by money order.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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EB2 visas for China and India is Unavailable

Demand for EB2 visas from China and India
Despite the retrogression of the China and India Employment Second preference cut-off date to August 15, 2007, demand for numbers by applicants with priority dates earlier than that date remained excessive. Such demand is primarily based on cases which had originally been filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for adjustment of status in the Employment Third preference category, and are now eligible to be upgraded to Employment Second preference status.

Upgrades from EB3 to EB2 visa, causes unavailability
The potential amount of such “upgrade” demand is not currently being reported, but it was evident that the continued availability of Employment Second preference numbers for countries other than China and India was being jeopardized. Therefore, it was necessary to make the China and India Employment Second preference category “Unavailable” in early April, and it will remain so for the remainder of FY-2012.

EB2 will be available in the Spring of 2013
Numbers will once again be available for China and India Employment Second preference cases beginning October 1, 2012 under the FY-2013 annual numerical limitations. Every effort will be made to return the China and India Employment Second preference cut-off date to the May 1, 2010 date which had been reached in April 2012. Readers should be advised that it is impossible to accurately estimate how long that may take, but current indications are that it would definitely not occur before spring 2013.

File your I-485 before end of May, 2012
USCIS has indicated that it will continue accepting China and India Employment Second preference I-485 filings during May, based on the originally announced May cut-off date.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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Issue of 221(g) and Other Delays for H-1bs in India

H-1b fraud is rampant in India, and is one of the most falsified visas in India. Many Indian H-1b cases require site visits, as it is necessary for officials to authenticate H-1b applicants’ experience letters due to applicants fabricating employment. According to the India Biannual Fraud Update, 2009, the city of Hyderabad, in Andhra Pradesh, India, is a center for counterfeit documentation in educational qualifications, experience letters and nonexistent companies. Worldwide there are 300,000 H-1b applications that are filed, 100,000 of which that are adjudicated in India.

According to the Fraud Update, Hyderabadi applicants make up over 30% of the consulate’s visa workload. In the first three months of H-1b assessment, the Consulate General of Hyderabad detained and prosecuted multiple vendors on the basis of falsified documents. Some Hyderabadi applicants even tried to submit their applications through the Mumbai Consulate by alleging that their employer was in Pune, which is in the jurisdiction of the Mumbai Consulate. Applicants often used these shell companies so that they could change jurisdictions and avoid applying through the Chennai consulate.

The 2009 Fraud Report enumerated high volumes of fraudulent documentation, namely in education degrees and experience letters. Since then, India has been on high alert and visas are being re-adjudicated—reexamined based on evidence presented by the beneficiary at the interview. It was discovered that H-1b applicants who did not meet minimum education qualifications were being approved for H1B visas. In Hyderabad, India, when the applicants’ experience letters were investigated through site visits to verify the existence of 150 companies, 77% of these employers turned out to be fraudulent. The outcome of this fraud report has led to a higher number of requests for evidence in the US, and a greater number of applicants being sent into administrative processing by the consulates for both H-1b and L-1b visas. The Chennai Consulate has hosted a worldwide H and L fraud conference, which has been attended by, amongst others, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Kentucky Consular Center (KCC), and multiple posts that adjudicate a number of Indian H-1b applicants.

In other words, the outcome is that even if you have an approved H-1b, there is a 27% chance worldwide of being re-judged, reexamined and re-adjudicated by an officer at the consulate. At this time, there is no deference being accorded to approvals by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) of H-1b applications. The H-1b visa holder who has been approved in the US, either through change of status, extension of status, or change of employer, now faces a prospect of going through another judgment process. At the consulate, the H-1b visa applicant is either given a visa stamp of approval in their passport or given a notice under Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA) 221(g). Or worse yet, the applicant is denied.

A 221(g) notice will generally ask for more documentation from the employer and from the employee, and for documentation that demonstrates an employer-employee relationship between the two. H-1b applicants must establish the existence of an employer-employee relationship with documentation that demonstrates that the requirements of experience and employment have been met. Among the various documents required by the consulate are petitions of tax returns; petitions of employees; state tax returns; employee’s work itinerary; a detailed account of the development project that the employee is working on; and academic credentials.

Under the US Department of State (DOS), Foreign Affairs Manual volume 9, FAM 41.53, Congress is given the authority to determine whether the alien meets the required qualifications for “H” status. This approval, in general, is to be considered prima facie evidence that the employee has met the requirements for H visa classification. According to 9 FAM 41.53 N2.2, “DOS does not have the authority to question the approval of H petitions without specific evidence, unavailable to DHS at the time of petition approval, that the beneficiary may not be entitled to status. The large majority of approved H petitions are valid, and involve bona fide establishments, relationships, and individual qualifications that conform to the DHS regulations in effect at the time the H petition was filed.” On the other hand, even if DHS approves the petition, this does not relieve the employee from establishing that they are eligible for the visa at the visa interview. New information could be made available to DOS during the interview, which could determine whether the consular officer should or should not approve H status without additional evidence. This evidence should bear a reasonable relationship to the issue, but the consular officer should not reconsider the petition because of legal or factual disagreements with DHS. In fact, 9 FAM 41.53 N2.2 states that, “By mandating a preliminary petition process, Congress placed responsibility and authority with DHS to determine whether the alien meets the required qualifications for “H” status. Because DHS regulations governing adjudication of H petitions are complex, you should rely on the expertise of DHS in this area.” These are the specific directions to DOS consular officers to accord deference to USCIS decisions. Yet, in a knee jerk reaction to the 2009 Fraud Report, it appears that far more petitions are issued 221(g) notices, demanding more documentation despite apparent bona fides established by the visa applicant and employer.

Further, Regulation 9 FAM 41.53 N2.2 also authorizes consular officers to process applications that appear legitimate; identify applications that require local investigation; and identify applications that require referral to USCIS for reconsideration. To avoid inconveniencing petitioners and beneficiaries, and causing duplication by DOS, the consular officer must have specific evidence of a requirement of automatic revocation of the visa; misinterpretation in the petition process; a lack of qualification on the part of the beneficiary; or if other previously unknown facts come to light that might alter a USCIS finding of approval.

When a consular officer seeks reconsideration of previously approved USCIS petition, the consular officer sends the application to KCC with Form DS-3099. The consular officer includes pertinent documentation, or a written memorandum of evidence supporting the request for reconsideration. KCC forwards the request to the approving USCIS office; then KCC scans the request and all the supporting documents to Petition Information Management Service (PIMS). KCC maintains a copy and tracks consular revocation requests. USCIS reconsiders the petition and sends back an approval or denial. This process may take several weeks or months.

The effect of this delay is that employees who are currently employed by US companies on various projects, and who are spending their vacation time with friends and family abroad, are now delayed 3-6 months in their home country. US companies are scrambling to fill those unexpected vacancies; there is a huge loss of revenue and profitability for US companies in the US. Consular officers often reject H-1b petitions based on an erroneous belief that given the high rate of unemployment in the US, those positions filled by the H-1b visa holder should actually be filled by a US citizen.

There is also a belief that US employers want to employ H-1b visa holders instead of US citizens — that US workers are fired so US companies may hire foreign nationals on H-1b visas who may work for lower pay. This is not true. Under current statute and regulations, H-1b visa holders must be paid the higher of the prevailing wage or the actual wage paid to US citizens in similar employment. In fact, every US employer attests to this fact when they file for Labor Condition Application (LCA) certification with the Department of Labor (DOL). US companies pay approximately $6,000 in additional legal and government imposed fees when hiring an H-1b visa holder.

Offsite working is a common practice in the computer industry. Large US companies in the business process consulting industry employ foreign nationals, and place these H-1b visa holders at customer work sites in order to design, build; and deliver business driven technology solutions that enable customers to get a competitive advantage in their market place. Due to the nature of the products and services offered by these US companies to its clients, it is necessary for US employers in this particular industry to provide its products and services directly at the customer’s location. When consular officers see a beneficiary of an H-1b visa not working at the employer’s offices but at a third party location, the immediate reaction by a consular official is to require the H-1b applicant’s employer to provide documentation of employee-employer relationship —- the right to control and the actual control. This requires both employer and employee to provide tax documentation, employee payroll, state tax payroll, contract letters, agreements with customers, and signed employee benefit manuals. It apparently does not matter that some or all of this information may be either confidential or proprietary to the US employer and their customer. Employers are between a rock and a hard place; between disclosing too much private or proprietary information, and risking a denial if these documents are not provided.

To counter these issues presented to and by consular officers, employers and employees should follow the subsequent list of Best Management Practices (BMPs) for adjudicating while applying for H-1b visas.

As an employee, you should avoid traveling outside the US; it could be detrimental to the status of your H-1b. If you must travel, you should notify your employer and attorney and wait for consent, an application review and an update by your immigration attorney, before traveling abroad. Your DS-160 Form should not say “unemployed” while you are not working for your employer. Obtain a vacation letter from your manager.

In terms of the application, the beneficiary should be aware of what the company says about him or her. The beneficiary must have supporting evidence that proves he or she has the skills and expertise to do the job. The beneficiary should also know the organizational framework of the company, and know how education and experience qualifications make him or her eligible for H-1b. If the beneficiary has been with the employer for over two years, then it is wise to begin the Labor and Green Card process and fill out an I-140 Form. Before submitting the H-1b application, make a full copy of the petition with all the supporting documents and study the original H-1b application. Be prepared to answer questions that are not within the scope of the application. Remember to dress business casual, and do not be modest about your accomplishments.

As an employer, the support letter should describe the company’s product, and the employer must ensure that the application meets the criteria of a US company. The employer must identify job duties, qualifications and experience for employees; and that the employer is the source of tools and knowledge for the job. The employer must prove that he or she manages the employee, and has the authority to delegate supplementary tasks and hire and fire, as well as review employee performance and furnish company benefits. Evidence should support the fact that the employer pays employees’ wages, and pays federal, state and local taxes on the employee’s wages. The employer must show that he or she claims the beneficiary as an employee on tax filings. The employer must also provide employee records, corporate tax returns and payroll for employees. In addition, companies must ensure that any publicly available information about their business is accurate. Consular officers either check Vibe or perform a quick search online about the company.

Please contact Mahadevan Law Office if you have any further questions.
Phone: 314-725-9958
Email: nsm@lawyersyoucantalkto.com
Website: www.lawyersyoucantalkto.com

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA

Attorney at Law

www.lawyersyoucantalkto.com

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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OCI and Renunciation Certificate for Travel to India

A client of mine asked me if they would become dual citizens if they obtained ‘Overseas Citizen of India’ (OCI). Although the word ‘Citizen’ is included in the name, the OCI holder does not become a citizen of India. OCI could be likened to becoming a permanent resident of the United States. There is no eligibility to vote or be elected to public office, nor is there eligibility to be employed by the Government of India or hold an Indian passport. A US ‘green card’ holder can buy agricultural land, but an OCI holder cannot acquire agricultural land in India, unless they inherit the land.

At all times, an OCI holder remains a citizen of the country of their current citizenship. So a US citizen applying for an OCI does not hold dual citizenship; rather, she or he holds a permanent visa to India, with the ability to enter and exit India at anytime. The OCI holder does not have to register with the local police authorities to stay in India past six months. The OCI is a booklet that is carried in addition to your passport; the passport is stamped with a U visa that is a permanent visa. At this time, India does not recognize dual citizenship.

To be eligible for an OCI, the applicant must be eligible to become an Indian citizen on January 26, 1950 or later, was never a citizen of Pakistan or Bangladesh, or is a child or grandchild of an Indian citizen.

The applicant must renounce Indian citizenship. If Indian citizenship was renounced before June 1, 2010, then the surrender fee is $20.00; $175.00 for renunciation of Indian citizenship past June 1, 2010.

A surrender certificate is required to obtain consular services at the Indian consulate, after receiving OCI, if you obtained non Indian citizenship after May 31st, 2010. If you were not an Indian national before that date, then you do not require renunciation certificate. Contrary to popular myth, you do not need a renunciation certificate to enter India. You need your OCI card, and your passport with your permanent visa ‘U’ visa to India.

A surrender certificate is issued when you surrender an Indian passport to obtain an OCI card. A renunciation certificate is issued when the Indian passport is lost and only Indian citizenship is renounced, no passport surrendered.

Hope this clears up my client’s doubts.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA

Attorney at Law

www.lawyersyoucantalkto.com

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

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Civil Unions

Civil unions are usually viewed as a benefit to same sex couples, allowing the parties to legalize their relationship and recognize that they are a couple just like you and me. The Illinois Senate has passed the bill and it has gone up to Governor Pat Quinn for signature. Governor Quinn is scheduled to sign the bill next year. The law could take effect next summer, June 11, 2011. But with this law, Illinois has enacted a law that has widespread effects. The law is called The Illinois Religious Freedom and Civil Union Act. The law was enacted because same sex couples were denied marriage benefits, and there was no compelling state interest or rational basis to deny same sex couples these marriage benefits. The bill particularly mentions that the purpose is not to interfere with religious freedom or beliefs about marriage. The bill will apply equally to same and opposite sex partners (something new) who want to enter into a civil marriage or union. Same sex partners will be called ‘spouse’, ‘immediate family’, and ‘dependent’. This is important because it has implications for divorce, probate law and other domestic relations law. So same sex couples can marry, divorce and have standing in court to sue on these actions. They can also inherit under probate law as a civil union spouse, sue for emotional distress, wrongful death, loss of consortium under Illinois tort law. As spouse, they can apply for insurance benefits – health and accident, be eligible for group insurance in employee insurance plans. Under Illinois tax law, they will be eligible as spouses for taxes and tax deductions as spouses and dependents. Marriage, under the Illinois law, is prohibited between siblings, uncle and nephew, aunt and niece. Because same sex couples are treated as ‘spouses’ under the marriage and divorce law of Illinois, they can now share rights to make end of life decisions, nursing home decisions, transfer of property to spouses, and survivor benefits. Under workers’ compensation rules, ‘spouses’ can claim benefits. Did I say there was something different about this bill? Well, heterosexual couples who do not want to marry, can opt for a civil union and enjoy the same benefits as a married couple would do. Why, you ask? Let us say that a couple is interested in a domestic partnership because they face loss of health insurance and other benefits, or seniors who will lose their social security survivor benefits, pension or income if they remarry, then this bill offers a way out. Seniors can also now have the right to make emergency decisions for their ‘spouse’ under this new law. It recognizes the relationship without the concomitant problems of marriage. So it provides straight couples some legal support but no title of marriage. Employers should review their employee benefits, especially health insurance, and family leave benefits and their compliance with applicable labor laws. Couples who opt for civil unions under this law can also make end of life decisions–they do not have to have powers of attorney to end, for example, a vegetative state. Remember the Terry Schaivo case? They also have the right to make funeral home decisions and take charge of the remains. But these protections are offered only at the state level and have no application at the federal level. Tax law, immigration law and a host of other laws will not recognize these relationships as spouses. I guess you could then claim a ‘spouse’ under the new law as a dependent under state law but not federal law. The federal law, the Defense of Marriage Act, recognizes marriage as a union only between a man and a woman. DOMA does not recognize civil unions even if the union is recognized by the state. This is a legal conundrum because the full faith and credit clause of the US Constitution makes it mandatory to recognize the laws of another state in the Union, and accord foreign state laws equal application and status. But same sex unions or marriages are non-existent in federal law. A United States Citizen or legal permanent resident cannot sponsor a same sex partner of foreign citizenship to live with them in the United States as their ‘spouse’. Same sex marriage was banned in California after Proposition 8 was passed. But on August 4, 2010, a federal district court decided that such a ban violated the Equal Protection clause of the US Constitution. The equal protection clause does not guarantee equality among individuals or classes but only that the laws would be applied equally to all. The question remains for us: are some more equal than others? Is the federal government practicing discrimination by the unequal application of laws, or by denying rights to some? Is this a slippery slope we should not venture on?

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA

Attorney at Law

www.lawyersyoucantalkto.com

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

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TSA and Other Intrusions on Our Privacy

Yesterday, it was TSA intruding on our privacy with full body scanners and full body pat downs. These searches caused issues for persons with disabilities. TSA officers need more training on how to interact with disabled persons. Tom Sawyer, a retired special education teacher, had a urostomy (artificial bladder) and was embarrassed by TSA officers who ruptured his bag in an over zealous search. Today, air travelers are participating in a boycott of full body x-ray and opting for the full body pat down. The only persons who were affected were their fellow passengers!  The shoe bomber of 2002 and the Christmas day bomber of 2009 taught us not only to fear the dreaded holiday weight gain, but also terrorists who feel the holidays merit their special attention. I’ll take weight gain over being blown up…ha!

The alternative to intrusive scans is racial profiling. Targeting a particular racial group for extra law enforcement attention: Israel has mastered the art. Sometimes air passengers are questioned for 3 hours before a flight. If you are Arab, Israeli or a foreigner flying on El Al, then you are subject to humiliating body searches and in depth interrogation. The Israelis do not find it necessary to question innocent passengers who are 99% of the traveling public. There are no airline terrorist incidents affecting the Israeli airline.

An even greater threat to us is our online privacy. Today, the Wall Street Journal has a front page article about information collection by data mining companies. Two US companies, Kindsight, Inc. and Phorm, Inc, are promoting deep packet inspection as a way of collecting information about you as you surf the net. Their technology reads and analyzes data as it flies across the internet. This is very detailed profiles of internet activities, capable of reading e-mail and sensitive online activity. These services are used by internet advertisers to target consumers with particularized ads tailored and based on developed, detailed internet profiles. How does it work? You are online, sending e-mails, watching online videos, site surfing. The information is collected and sent in data packets from your computer to your internet service provider (ISP). The ISP channels your search to websites. These companies have the capability of reading (inspecting) these data packets traveling between ISPs and the websites you want to visit. Then when you visit the website, you see an ad from a store that you last visited online, or a news story that may be in your interest range. This profiling is possible because these companies know more about your habits, income, assets and debts than you thought possible. They know your age, driving history, your addresses, whether you rent or own, the names of your family members. These details from public websites can be easily obtained by anyone who knows where to look on the internet. The technology is largely driven by the need for more revenue; targeted ads garner more interest and revenue. This is especially true now that ISPs are under greater fire to provide more services at lower prices. When I was researching articles for this blog, I received ads from my favorite stores. Of course, I would be more tempted to click on the ad. That is what these companies want; targeted ads provide larger revenue streams. As I surf the net, I try to use not only Google, but also Bing, Ask and Yahoo for my searches. Use some of the lesser known search engines. Opt out of privacy announcements. I now read every online agreement before I agree. As with everything internet, buyer beware.

See you in my next post.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA

Attorney at Law

www.lawyersyoucantalkto.com

Copyright 2010.  All rights reserved.

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