Immigration Practice

Immigration laws are complex and unforgiving. Small mistakes such as missing deadlines, not being aware of the latest regulatory changes or not filing paperwork properly can ruin employment opportunities, dash dreams of a better life and even split up families. Clients rely on Catherine R. Henin-Clark, P.A. for immigration counsel because of our years of experience in this ever-changing area of the law and our certified expertise.


Thousands of Florida lawyers practice immigration and nationality law, but only 75 are certified by The Florida Bar as experts in this field.  Ms. Catherine Henin-Clark is one of those Florida Bar certified experts! 


For more than 30 years, Ms. Henin-Clark has represented individuals and employers in every aspect of the immigration process. An immigrant herself, she has a personal understanding of the challenges facing her clients. Although Ms. Henin-Clark practices from our Orlando office, her practice is national, and she represents clients across the United States and around the globe. She handles all types of visa applications for individuals and counsels employers in obtaining visas for employees and ensuring compliance with U.S. immigration laws.


In addition to her certification by The Florida Bar, Ms. Henin-Clark has earned respect from her peers. She has served as chair and committee member of The Florida Bar board that certifies lawyers in immigration and nationality law, and she speaks frequently to bar and business groups in the U.S. and abroad. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and is fluent in Spanish, French and English.


Ms. Henin-Clark also has done extensive pro bono work, representing families that face separation, children in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and same-sex or transgender immigrants who face discrimination and violence in their native countries.


Our Current Immigration Environment

Almost 100 bills directly affecting immigration have been introduced in the U.S. Congress over the past two years, many with conflicting goals and uncertain consequences. While almost every political faction agrees that our immigration system is broken, the current Congress remains deadlocked on comprehensive immigration reform. Nonetheless, the rules are fluid because existing laws give immigration authorities great latitude in interpreting the law and legislating by regulatory fiat. At the same time, the White House is taking an activist approach toward immigration policy. The result is that while no bills are passing Congress, on-the-ground regulations that affect individuals who want to immigrate into the U.S. are constantly changing. While there has been much attention devoted to the administration’s efforts to curtail illegal immigration, steps also are being taken to reduce legal immigration, mostly through stricter interpretation of existing law and regulations. Nothing is routine in the current immigration environment.


Our long experience monitoring the politics of immigration, as well as the often-changing emphasis on enforcement, allows us to anticipate problems that could emerge for clients and to protect their interests. The national conversation is about big policy issues, but our focus is on obtaining results for our individual and business clients.



REPRESENTING INDIVIDUALS AND BUSINESSES


In addition to representing individuals, we represent businesses that seek to bring in foreign workers. We also assist employers with employment eligibility verification, I-9 audits, E-Verify and compliance with all immigration laws. We have successfully represented thousands of individuals and businesses in obtaining their immigration goals. 



OUR PROCESS FOR HELPING CLIENTS


Clients sometimes come to us wanting to use a specific immigration program or visa, but we find there often are misunderstandings about what is appropriate for their situation. We ask clients to focus on outcomes. Is the goal to bring a family member to the U.S.? Does the client want to obtain or extend a work visa? Is the client facing deportation proceedings? Does a business need to bring in foreign nationals whose skills are difficult to find in the U.S.? Does a business face problems in documenting its good-faith compliance with immigration regulations?


Each client’s situation is different, but our years of experience have taught us that clients often back themselves into a corner when they start an immigration process without the benefit of advice from an experienced immigration attorney. 


We cannot emphasize this enough: Whether you retain our firm or someone else, do not risk your future by attempting to navigate the complex immigration process without qualified counsel. Some mistakes are very difficult to fix if the process is not implemented properly from the beginning. 


There are dozens of variations of visa programs that can aid immigration clients, and we won’t attempt to explain all of them. No matter your situation as an individual or business, it is likely that we have past experience that will inform us in helping you. 


Here are a few topics that clients ask us about frequently:


Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID)

We have helped hundreds of people respond successfully to notices of intent to deny (NOID). If you have received a notice of intent to deny, it usually means that the government will deny your immigration request either because you didn’t submit adequate documentation or because it has found disqualifying information. In most cases, the government official who evaluated your application is applying discretion in making a decision against you. The government may reverse its initial assessment if you respond with additional justification. 


Two factors are critical in responding to notices of intent to deny:

  • You must respond within 30 days. 
  • An attorney experienced in immigration law will be able to evaluate the notice and help you in securing the documentation that may be persuasive to the immigration official.

EB-5 Visas Remain Popular

The EB-5 visa program allows foreign nationals to become legal U.S. residents, or green card holders, by investing at least $500,000 in a U.S. business that will employ at least 10 workers. Ms. Henin-Clark has represented thousands of EB-5 clients from every continent, and she often has been asked to correct mistakes clients made earlier in their attempts to use this program. One obstacle we often see is how to move investment funds from clients’ home countries – particularly in Asia – where there are limits on exporting money. 


For example, Chinese nationals cannot transfer more than $50,000 annually out of the country, and India banking laws limit such transfers to $250,000.  


We advise on how to effect such transfers legally. Loans and gifts of money also must be structured properly, and the U.S. government requires extensive documentation on the source of funds. We counsel clients on how to do these transactions in compliance with both the laws of their native countries and the U.S. 


Another problem we encounter is the viability of regional centers, the third-party intermediaries that connect foreign investors using the EB-5 program with businesses in the U.S. We have seen regional centers that skirt the rules and thereby jeopardize the immigration goals of clients. We help clients by doing due diligence on regional centers, reviewing business plans and other background information, and ensuring that their investment is compliant with the rules of the program. We also represent U.S. businesses that want to become qualified EB-5 regional centers and advise them on finding these capital sources.


There currently is a backlog of EB-5 applications, and Congress will have to extend the program past its current scheduled expiration in December 2018. We will continue to follow developments and counsel clients on alternatives.


Examples of our EB-5 clients include:

  • A father and his two sons who used an EB-5 investment to purchase a restaurant franchise.
  • Investors who asked us for advice on corporate structure and an EB-5 application to support the expansion of a bicycle store into a motorcycle dealership. 
  • A family from Africa who used the proceeds from an inheritance to invest in a regional center. The application required extensive documentation that traced the source of the inheritance back more than 70 years.
  • A French client who retained us to assemble EB-5 documentation that verified the source of his income and investments for several decades. 
  • An international real estate developer who used a regional center to invest in a large Central Florida project. We worked closely with securities law experts to prepare documents.
  • A Central Florida real estate developer who has attracted investment through a regional center.

Extraordinary Ability Visas Require Extensive Documentation

An extraordinary ability visa, also called an O-1 visa, grants temporary residency to those who have recognized achievements in business, education, athletics, entertainment and the arts. Members of the visa holder’s immediate family and personal staff also can obtain a visa. These visas require extensive documentation to prove applicants are recognized in their field and will work in the U.S. during their stay. Obviously, “extraordinary ability” is a subjective evaluation, and it is very important to support applications with sources the government will find credible.


Our clients have included NASA researchers, celebrity chefs, writers, business executives, and many athletes and performing artists. Our athlete clients have included Olympians, boxers, tennis players, snowboarders, motocross racers, gymnasts and their coaches. On the performing artist side, we have represented Cirque du Soleil performers, dancers for Madonna and Beyoncé tours, musicians, singers and production managers. We understand the unique needs of performers and athletes who must adhere to rigorous schedules of teams or tours. 


In some cases, athletes and others in this category may be able to come into the U.S. without a visa, but they are at constant risk of losing their permission to stay in the U.S. This can leave them unable to fulfill contracts and meet other obligations. Currently, U.S. embassies are placing additional scrutiny on these visa applications, which places additional weight on having the right documentation. We have obtained extraordinary ability visas for hundreds of applicants across the globe and can advise clients on the best strategy for obtaining such visas.


Examples of our extraordinary ability clients include:

  • Performing artists in Cirque du Soleil and touring shows such as La Nouba, Mystere, “O,” Kà, Alegria, Michael Jackson, Love and Zumanity.
  • Lead dancers for Madonna, Beyoncé, Pharrell Williams, MTV Video Music Awards, European Music Awards and Dancing with the Stars.
  • A young artist who won “The Voice” in Russia.
  • A French acrobatic performer who was featured on Le Plus Grand Cabaret du Monde, a popular French television show.
  • A magician who has won international awards.
  • A renowned French journalist.
  • Executive chefs who have worked in famous restaurants.
  • The executive of a leading Canadian tourism enterprise.
  • A NASA researcher and engineer.

E-2 Visas – Easier to Obtain but Sometimes Problematic for Families

E-2 visas are based on treaties between the U.S. and certain other nations, and they allow immigrants to obtain U.S. residency if they make an investment, usually about $200,000 to $300,000, in a U.S. business. Spouses and employees of the business also may be eligible for U.S. residency. However, children of E-2 visa holders are not eligible for continued U.S. residency once they reach age 21 unless they obtain a student visa. We have helped many clients obtain these visas and assisted them in keeping their children in the U.S. 

Marriages – Keeping Couples Together

Unfortunately, married couples or those planning to marry can face separation if they don’t plan ahead. When and where the couple was married, whether one party already was in the U.S. legally and other factors can make a big difference in how the government views the marriage for immigration purposes. 


We encourage couples to consult us before a marriage to ensure they are taking the right steps that will protect them. We also work with same-sex and transgender couples, and while these marriages now have legal protection in the U.S., it should not be assumed the government will recognize such marriages under immigration laws. Again, proper planning usually will allow a couple to be compliant with U.S. laws.

Labor Certification – A Difficult Process

Employers who face a shortage of U.S. citizens with certain professional skillsets sometimes turn to the PERM Labor Certification program (Program Electronic Review Management). Under this program, the government will grant green cards to foreign nationals if their prospective employer can prove there are no qualified U.S. workers for the position. If approved, these workers must be paid at the prevailing U.S. wage for their occupation, as determined by the U.S. Department of Labor.


This is a statistical-driven evaluation in which the government uses its labor databases to determine if there is a shortage of workers in a particular field. Obtaining these visas is one of the most difficult processes in immigration, requiring extensive knowledge of the government’s statistical analysis and fine-tuning of applications. We usually bring in a third-party labor expert who aids us in assembling the documentation for this visa. Clients benefit from our experience in obtaining hundreds of these visas and other work-related guest visas. 

H1-B Visas – Still Subject to Lottery

The H1-B visa is another path for foreign specialty workers to enter the U.S. if they have an employer sponsor. Unfortunately, these visas are limited and are selected through a lottery in March each year, and typically only a third of applicants are selected.


We continue to work with companies that want to use this program, and we also work with individuals who obtained an H1-B visa and desire to change employers.