I have friends who are going through...nightmares because of poor attorney counsel. All I can say is, chosing yours was the best thing i did in a while. I will have no hesitation in recommending your office to any other physician inquiring about the process...
I believe you have been such a blessing, not only for me, but for my entire family. I know I have asked the same questions over and over again, yet you never refuse to give me the most adequate answers. ... Once again, thank you.
President Hargis of Oklahoma State University referred Mr. Winningham to me. He has been highly recommended by the President and his wife. His professionalism is impressive. I recommend all interested parties to at least have a phone conversation with him to check out his advice. I am more than lucky to work with him. Personable, Expert, On Time.
We deeply want to say thank you to you ... and your legal team for the great job on handling my PERM case. We are really satisfied with all aspects of your legal service.
I had worked in the US for over 4 years and had expected my company to process my permanent residency paperwork. However, when the time for renewal approached and I asked about the permanent residency status, I was informed that it was my responsibility. It was at this time that I found it appropriate to contact an immigration attorney for I was running out of time. After being referred by a friend to Winningham, Stein & Basey, I checked their record online and was impressed. My first contact with Mr. Winningham was, as expected, very comforting and his office started on the paperwork immediately. The staff is very friendly and respectful. Most impressive was the fact that the fee I paid for their services was not anywhere close to what I had been informed of by other people. If you need an immigration attorney, I recommend Winningham, Stein & Basey for very good reasons.
I have just had my first week of work at OSU and I think it's going to be a good three years! I just wanted to thank you ... for all your work on my behalf.
[T]hank you for the excellent and the most efficient service you have provided... I am lucky and fortunate to have you as my counselors. I have always bragged about you to my family and friends. You have been sincere, honest and discrete throughout my immigration process. I would and always will recommend you and your law firm to anybody in a heartbeat. I would also like to thank your assistants ... and the rest of your staff who have been of great help during my immigration process...
Before meeting Mr. Winningham, I had hired another immigration lawyer who had been working on my case for over two years. The previous lawyer charged me a lot of money and, after two years, instead of receiving my green card, I got a notification of deportation. I talked to Mr. Winningham and in less than one year my deportation notice was cancelled and I received my green card. Mr. Winningham has always been very professional and knowledgeable. I cannot think of anyone better qualified to handle immigration issues. Surely, he is the best immigration lawyer that we have in this region. I cannot express how grateful I am for how diligently he has handled my immigration issues. I would definitely recommend him to anyone with similar problems.
Juris Doctor, University of Oklahoma School of Law.
Juris Doctor, University of Oklahoma School of Law.
Bachelor Degree, Oklahoma State University (History and Political Science).
Juris Doctor, University of OklahomaEducation
Juris Doctor, University of Oklahoma School of Law, 1994
Bachelor of the Arts (Journalism and Spanish), Oklahoma State University, 1988.
Juris Doctorate, University of Oklahoma School of Law, 1993
Krasi was born in Bulgaria and is married to Mira, who is also a senior paralegal with our firm. Having personally navigated through the U.S. Immigration system wtih our firm's sponsership, both as nonimmigrants (“F” students and “H” professionals) and immigrants (“green card”), Krasi and Mira have first-hand knowledge and appreciation for the complexities of our U.S. immigration system.
While working for our firm they both Mira and Krasi attended and received their LL.M. degrees from the University of Oklahoma School of law. Since joining our firm they have also become the proud parents of their two young sons, Alex and Max.
Yolanda practiced law in Peru before immigrating to the United States. In Peru she was certified as a Family Mediator. Besides being an immigrant herself, her background allows her to appreciate how Immigration related stresses can impact not just individuals but the family as a unit.
Case ManagerPersonal Biography
Stefanie was born and raised in England. She immigrated to the United States following her marriage to a native Oklahoman. In England her career was in recruitment and managing large high volume accounts. Stefanie devotes much of her time coordinating our physician, nurse, and other health care related clients’, Stefanie also has a personal first-hand knowledge and appreciation for the complexities of our U.S. immigration system. Stefanie enjoys working with people and helping them achieve their goals, whether that be securing a job or a Green Card.
Citizens, Nationals, and Aliens Defined
The following information is intended to provide a basic framework for complicated U.S. immigration laws and policies. This includes how foreign nationals might legally visit, study, work in, or immigrate to the United States. It is intended for those with limited prior exposure to this specialized area of law.
There are several distinctions one should be aware of initially. Persons physically present in the United States are considered either citizens or nationals of the U.S., or they are aliens. There are two classes of legal aliens. Nonimmigrants, who are admitted to the U.S. temporarily, and immigrants who may reside in the U.S. permanently. Immigrants are also referred to as permanent residents or "Green Card" holders. A lawful permanent resident may become eligible for naturalization as a U.S. citizen. This is usually after maintaining lawful permanent resident status for five years (three years if married to a U.S. citizen), providing he or she meets all other statutory requirements.
The United States offers asylum and refugee protection to qualified applicants who are unable or unwilling to return to their country of nationality because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution. Claims of persecution must be based on at least one of five internationally recognized grounds: race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 ("IIRIRA") also provided that some actions taken under coercive population control programs constitute persecution on account of political opinion. A maximum of 1,000 aliens per fiscal year may be granted asylum or admitted as a refugee under this provision.
In addition to asylum and refugee protection, withholding of removal is available to individuals in the United States who can show a likelihood their lives or freedom would be threatened if they were returned to the country in question. Withholding of removal is in some ways similar to asylum, but is governed by a higher standard, requiring applicants to establish that it is more likely than not that they would be persecuted. Unlike asylum, however, once this standard is met, there is no discretion to deny withholding and the applicant may not be returned to that country.
Asylum and refugee applicants are both adjudicated under the same legal standard, but differ in terms of where they are located. The potential asylee is in the United States or applying for admission at a port of entry, and the potential refugee is outside the United States. Aliens in the United States must file an asylum application within one year after the alien's arrival in the United States, unless there exist changed circumstances affecting the applicant's eligibility for asylum, or extraordinary circumstances which justify the delay in filing. People overseas who are eligible for consideration by the U.S. refugee program apply by filing a Registration for Classification as a Refugee.
An alien who is in the United States and who is not in immigration proceedings may apply to the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services ("BCIS") for asylum. Asylum claims filed before an alien is in USCIS physical custody are "affirmative" applications filed voluntarily by the alien. If an asylum officer denies the asylum application of an alien in lawful status, the applicant can reapply for asylum before an immigration judge if he/she is later placed in removal proceedings. Affirmative asylum applicants are not placed in detention while their application is considered.
The Executive Office for Immigration Review ("Immigration Court" or "EOIR") has exclusive jurisdiction over the cases of aliens who are placed in removal (deportation) proceedings and then seek asylum. Asylum claims filed before EOIR are "defensive" applications raised in removal proceedings before immigration judges as a defense against removal. Aliens who seek asylum as a defense against removal may be detained for being in the United States illegally until an immigration judge rules on their asylum claim.
U.S. law mandates that aliens who arrive at a U.S. port of entry without travel documents or who engage in fraud or material misrepresentation be detained and placed in expedited removal. Aliens who express or indicate a fear of persecution during the expedited removal process receive a "credible fear" interview with an USCIS asylum officer. Aliens found to have a credible fear are referred for ordinary removal proceedings in which they may apply for asylum before an immigration judge. Aliens determined to have a credible fear are detained because they remain in removal proceedings until an immigration judge rules on their asylum claim.
USCIS district directors have discretionary authority to parole, or release, an alien in proceedings from detention. In determining whether release is appropriate on a case-by-case basis, district directors must decide whether the alien's release would serve an urgent humanitarian need or significant public benefit and whether the alien has established his/her identity, poses a threat to the community, demonstrates family ties in the community, presents evidence of a credible asylum claim, or poses a risk of flight. Different, more restrictive criteria govern the custody of certain criminal aliens.
Please visit here for details. (Courtesy of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service)
Access to the U.S. refugee program is not open-ended. To file a Form I-590 application as a refugee, a refugee applicant must first be found to be eligible for a refugee interview. The question of whether applicants are eligible for a refugee interview is governed by their nationality and whether they come under one of the processing priorities used to manage the U.S. refugee program. The designation of eligible nationalities and processing priorities is decided annually.
Traditionally, refugee applicants are interviewed in third countries after having fled their country of persecution. Individuals who have fled their country and believe themselves to be at risk if returned should contact the nearest office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). That office will make a decision as to whether the individuals require protection and where that protection may be provided. The U.S. legal definition of refugee also allows for in-country refugee processing in countries so designated by the President.
Issuance of a nonimmigrant visa by a U.S. Embassy or Consulate only permits an alien to travel to the United States. Upon arrival at a U.S. port of entry, a U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service ("BCIS") official usually inspects and grants the alien permission to enter and stay a certain period of time in the U.S. by endorsing a card called an arrival/departure record, or Form I-94. This USCIS authorized period of stay may exceed the validity date of the alien's visa. Nationals of some countries are not required to obtain tourist or business (B-1/B-2) visas to travel to the U.S. for stays of 90 days or less. Such individuals cannot extend their period of stay or change their status while still in the U.S.
There is no such thing as a "work permit". Citizens, nationals and lawful permanent residents are authorized to be employed in the United States. Certain non-immigrant visa categories include, as an incident of the visa, authorization to be employed in the United States. The USCIS does issue certain non-immigrants "Employment Authorization" (EAD) cards.
An immigrant visa is a visa which authorizes a person to immigrate to the United States
during its four-month period of validity. As with non-immigrant visas, visa issuance
does not guarantee admission to the U.S. There are, however, certain waivers available
to returning residents which are not available to other aliens seeking to enter the
Aliens in the United States or at a port of entry who are unable or unwilling to return to their home country because of a well-founded fear of persecution on the basis of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group may be granted asylum. Such aliens are often referred to as "asylees".
Within the numerical limitation system there are three separate limitations: (1) There
is an absolute cap of 700,000 visas per year; (2) There is an annual cap of 25,650 visas
per year for each independent country and 7,320 visas per year for dependent
territories; and (3) There are percentage limitations within the system of preference
Immediate Relatives are exempt from numerical limitations. Immediate relatives include the following three groups: Minor children of U.S. citizens; Parents of U.S. citizens who are at least 21 years of age and Spouses of U.S. citizens (Bona Fide Marriage)
The immediate relative category is one of the most important immigrant visa groups exempt from numerical limitations. Its obvious purpose is to promote the unity of families of U.S. citizens. The present statute excludes from numerical restrictions the "immediate relatives" of U.S. citizens. However, while there is no limit to the number of visas issued to immediate relatives (currently about 250,000 annually), the number of visas issued to immediate relatives is counted as part of the 480,000 annual allotment for family-sponsored immigration. Increases in immediate relative visas will reduce the number of visas available for the numerically-limited family preference categories until those groups' share of the family-based immigrant visas falls to 226,000. When that "floor" is reached, further reductions in the preference groups' share of the family-based visas will end.
Other Family Sponsored Immigrants - A minimum of 226,000 family sponsored visas will be allocated annually to the following Family Preference System:
140,000 visas are allocated annually according to an employment based preference ("EBP") system. Such system was established in the belief that the U.S. economy would benefit from increased immigration of skilled workers. Not all of these employment based visas require labor certifications. The five categories of employment based preference (EBP) visas are as follows:
A priority Worker Visa can be any one of 3 subgroups which provide 40,000 visas per year
and where no labor certification is required.
(A) Aliens with Extraordinary Ability in the Arts, Sciences, Education, Business, or Athletics which has been demonstrated by national or international recognition or extensive documentation. Such aliens can sponsor themselves; they must come to the U.S. to work in such area; and their work in the U.S. must benefit the U.S.
(B) Outstanding Professors and Researchers. Such aliens must be internationally recognized in a specific area, have at least 3 years' experience in teaching or research, and be offered a permanent teaching or research position. Researchers must work for an employer who employs at least 3 persons in research.
(C) Multinational Executives and Managers. If an alien has been employed by the same petitioning employer for at least one of the last 3 years and such alien will work in the U.S. in a managerial or executive position (which is a definitive and complicated definition), in such circumstances the same petitioner can file on behalf of the alien. Presumably any alien on an L-1 visa who qualified for the L-1 based upon managerial or executive duties under the old Schedule A, Group IV could qualify.
40,000 visas per year, plus any unused visas from EBP #1 above are
allocated for such
aliens. A professional with a bachelor's degree and 5 years experience would also meet
the requirements of an advanced degree. A person of "exceptional ability" under strict
standards defined by the USCIS can also qualify.
Persons under either category must be sponsored by an employer and must have an approved labor certification unless they can obtain a "National Interest Waiver" of the labor certification requirement. Persons of exceptional ability must illustrate they will benefit the economy, the cultural or educational interests, or the welfare of the U.S.
40,000 visas plus any unused visas from EBP #1 and #2 above are allocated for:
(I) Skilled workers in short supply with 2 years' training or experience
(ii) Professionals - members of the professions who hold bachelor's degrees. Does not permit experience to be used as equivalent of a bachelor's degree.
(iii) Other workers including unskilled workers (No more than 10,000 visas per year can be issued for unskilled workers.) Any qualifying alien must be coming to the U.S. to perform unskilled labor for which qualified workers are not available.
10,000 visas per year can be granted to:
a. Ministers of religion with 2 years' experience;
b. Religious workers who are not ministers;
c. Certain U.S. mission employees in Hong Kong;
d. Certain international organization aliens.
10,000 immigrant visas per year can be given to any investor (and family) from any
a. Has engaged in or established new commercial enterprise after November 29, 1990; and
b. Has invested or is in the process of investing $1 million in a standard metropolitan statistical area (SMSA) in excess of 20,000 inhabitants or $500,000. In a smaller town (or SMSA) or a targeted high unemployment area in an inner city or other area; and
c. Creates at least 10 full time jobs not including the alien or his family members; and
d. Such commercial enterprise will benefit the U.S. economy.
Such investor immigrant will be granted conditional permanent residence on behalf of himself and his family which can be converted to permanent residence or "green card" holder after 2 years when such investor files another petition with the USCIS illustrating:
a. A commercial enterprise was established by the alien; and
b. The alien invested the requisite capital; and
c. 10 employees were hired, the investment was funded, and the business is viable.
The regulations and their interpretations are varied; however, any good business investment with the foregoing parameters could result in immigration benefits.
Most persons coming to the United States as Employment Based Preference ("EBP") #2 or #3
aliens must obtain an alien employment certification, more commonly known as a "labor
certification". An exception for EBP#2's can be requested based upon a "National
Interest Waiver" The certification is from the Secretary of Labor to the Secretary of
State and the Attorney General that (1) there are not sufficient United States citizens
or lawful permanent resident workers able, willing, qualified, and available at the time
of application for a visa and admission to the United States and at the place where the
alien is to perform such skilled or unskilled labor, and (2) the employment of such
aliens will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of workers in the
United States similarly employed. The labor certification process is complex,
time-consuming, and the results uncertain.
It should also be noted that individual labor certifications are generally not available to investors through business in which they have invested or own stock.
In 1996 the 104th Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant
Responsibility Act ("IIRAIRA").
EXPEDITED REMOVAL: IIRAIRA created a new expedited removal process in effect at all U.S. ports of entry. Under this expedited process, persons attempting to enter the U.S. with fraudulent documents or no documents can be summarily removed from the U.S. by an Immigration and Naturalization Service (BCIS) inspector at the port of entry. Additionally, persons who attempt to enter by “mis-representation” also may be removed. The decision of the USCIS inspector is reviewed by his or her supervisor, but IIRAIRA explicitly limits judicial review of the BCIS’ decision to remove the applicant. In addition, a person subject to expedited removal can be barred by the USCIS officer from reentering the U.S. for a minimum for five years, and possibly permanently. Certain aliens who have committed an "aggravated felony" are also subject to removal in expedited administrative proceedings.
BARS TO ADMISSIBILITY: IIRAIRA created new bars to admissibility to the U.S. for people who have been unlawfully present in the U.S. for six months or longer. Under these new provisions, anyone who tries to enter the U.S. who has previously been in the country unlawfully for more than 180 days but less than one year, will be barred from reentering the U.S. for three years. Anyone who is in the U.S. unlawfully for one year or more will be barred from reentering for ten years. The period of unlawful presence in the U.S. only starts to count on and after April 1, 1997, the date of enactment of IIRAIRA. Only very limited and narrow waivers and exceptions to these bars to admissibility exist.
The Immigration and Nationality Act now provides that an alien is inadmissible as an
alien likely to become a public charge if the alien is seeking an immigrant visa,
admission as an immigrant, or adjustment of status as: (a) An immediate relative, (b) a
family based immigrant, or (c) an employment based immigrant, of a relative if the alien
is the petitioning employer or owns a significant ownership interest in the entity that
is the petitioning employer. To overcome this ground of inadmissibility, the alien must
be the beneficiary of an affidavit of support filed under the new section 213A of the
Act. Section 213A of the Act specifies the conditions that must be met in order for an
affidavit of support to be sufficient to overcome the public charge inadmissibility
Form I-864, Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the Act, is a legally enforceable contract between the sponsor and the Federal Government, for the benefit of the sponsored immigrant and of any Federal, State, or local government agency or private entity that provides the sponsored immigrant with any means-tested public benefit. The sponsor must sign the Form I-864 before a notary public or a United States Immigration Officer or Consular Officer. By executing Form I-864, the sponsor agrees to provide the financial support necessary to maintain the sponsored immigrant at an income that is at least 125 percent of the Federal poverty line, unless the obligation has terminated. The sponsor also agrees to reimburse any agencies which provide means-tested public benefits to a sponsored immigrant. The sponsor must, under civil penalty, notify the Service and the State(s) in which the sponsored immigrant(s) reside of any change in the sponsor’s address.
Form I-864 must be executed on behalf of any accompanying or following to join spouse or child under section 203(d) of the Act, if they are filing application for immigrant visas or adjustment of status after December 19, 1997 in a classification for which an affidavit of support is required.
Section 213A(f)(1) of the Act sets forth the requirements to be a sponsor. The
individual executing the for I-864 must be a citizen or national of the United States or
a lawful permanent resident of the United States, be at least 18 years of age, be
domiciled in the United States or any of its territories or possessions, and demonstrate
the means to maintain an income of at least 125 percent of the Federal poverty guideline
(100 percent of the poverty guideline for sponsors on active duty in the Armed Forces of
the United States who are petitioning for their spouse or child).
Because the sponsor has an obligation to support the sponsored immigrant(s) at or above 125 percent of the poverty line, for purposes of the Form I-864, the sponsor’s household size is increased by the number of immigrants sponsored in the affidavit of support. This applies to all affidavits of support under section 213A of the Act, regardless of whether the sponsored immigrant(s) will be living in the same residence as the sponsor.
In order to meet the income threshold, the sponsor may rely on his or her own income, the income of his or her spouse, and the income of any other individuals who are related to the sponsor by birth, marriage, or adoption and have been living in the sponsor’s residence for the previous 6 months or who are listed as dependents on the sponsor’s most recent income tax return. In order to rely on the income of these other persons, however, the sponsor must include with the affidavit of support a written contract o Form I-864A, Contract Between Sponsor and Household Member, between the sponsor and each person whose income the sponsor will rely on to meet the income threshold. This written contract will provide that each person whose income the sponsor will rely on has agreed, in consideration of the sponsor’s signing of the Form I-864, to assist their sponsor in supporting the sponsored immigrant(s), to be held jointly and severally liable for payment of any reimbursement obligation that the sponsor may incur, and to submit to the personal jurisdiction of any competent court.
Federal individual income tax returns for the 3 most recent tax years must be attached to the Form I-864 for each individual whose income is used to qualify. These individuals must certify on Form I-864A, under penalty of perjury, that any attached tax returns are true and correct copies of the returns as submitted to the IRS. If any of these individuals has no legal obligation to file a Federal income tax return for any of the 3 most recent tax years, he or she must explain his or her failure to file and provide other evidence of annual income. The sponsor and any other individual whose income is used to qualify must also submit current evidence of employment of self-employment (if any).
After calculating household income, the sponsor must determine whether his or her total income level meets or exceeds the poverty guidelines, based on the applicable household size, including family members residing with the sponsor, dependents, and any immigrants sponsored in the Form I-864 being filed or in a previous Form I-864 where the obligation has not terminated. There may be instances in which an Immigration or Consular Officer may question the sponsor’s ability to maintain income based on the sponsor’s current employment situation, on the Federal income tax returns for the 3 most recent tax years, or on receipt of welfare benefits.
If the petitioner is unable to demonstrate the means to maintain income equal to at least 125 percent of the poverty line, the intending immigrant is inadmissible under section 212(a)(4) of the act, unless the petitioner and/or the sponsored immigrant(s) demonstrate significant assets which are available for the support of the sponsored immigrant(s) or a joint sponsor also executes a Form I-864. In order to be a joint sponsor, the individual must execute a separate Form I-864 and must accept joint legal responsibility with the petitioning sponsor and have an income and/or assets, based on his or her household size, including dependents and the number of persons previously and currently sponsored on Form I-864, which meets or exceeds 125 percent of the Federal poverty line.
Because section 213A(f)(6)(A)(ii) of the Act specifically permits the sponsor to rely on the assets of the immigrant sponsored in the affidavit of support being filed, the sponsored immigrant is not required to sign for I-864A in order for the Consular Officer or Immigration Officer to consider the sponsored immigrant’s assets. To reiterate, a sponsored immigrant who is a member of the sponsor’s household is required to sign a for I-864A only if the sponsor will rely on that sponsored immigrant’s income to show the sponsor’s ability to support a spouse or child immigrating with the sponsored immigrant.
The Immigration Service has determined that assets must be sufficient to support the intending immigrant(s) for at least 5 years, if necessary. Under section 403(a) of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, Public Law 104-194, any alien (with certain exceptions) who obtains lawful permanent resident status after enactment is ineligible for any Federal means-tested public benefit for a period of 5 years. 5 years is also the general residency requirement to qualify most immigrants for naturalization.
Form I-9 (or a copy thereof) must be completed within 3 business days for anyone hired after May 31, 1987. Form I-9 does not need to be completed for:
Employers can comply with the verification requirements of Form I-9 if a document
"reasonably appears on its face to be genuine". Employers are authorized, but not
required, to make copies of documents examined.
EMPLOYER VIOLATION - Hiring or continuing to employ unauthorized employees.
1st Violation - A fine of no less than $250 nor more than $2,000 for each unauthorized employee.
2nd Violation - A fine of not less than $2,000 nor more than $5,000 for each unauthorized employee.
EMPLOYER VIOLATION - Failure to complete, maintain or produce Form I-9 when requested.
1st Violation - A fine of not less than $100 nor more than $1,000 for each employee. In determining penalties, consideration will be given to the size of the business, good faith efforts to comply, seriousness of the violation, and whether it involves unauthorized employees.
EMPLOYER VIOLATION - Employers who require the employee to indemnify the employer against liability may be fined $1,000 and ordered to make restitution.
EMPLOYER VIOLATION - Engaging in a pattern or practice of violating the law - fine of $3,000 per employee and/or 6 months imprisonment.
EMPLOYER VIOLATION - Engaging in fraud, false statements or misusing visas, permits or identity documents - fines and imprisonment up to 2 years.
All employers should have procedures to insure proper completion, maintenance and retrieval of Form I-9 for any employees hired since November 7, 1986.
USCIS officers have no right to enter an employer's private premises without a valid arrest or search warrant issued by a federal judge or magistrate, unless the employer consents. An employer's normal duty to present I-9 forms after three days' advance notice does not include other documents, such as payroll lists or tax records. Neither the employer or the employees are required to answer any USCIS officer's questions. It is a crime to lie to federal officers or to make false statements on I-9 forms.