One of the questions I get asked a lot is whether a person will get deported for an arrest or crime conviction. This is a normal concern and I would be scared too. Whether or not you’re going to be deported for a criminal conviction is going to depend on the conviction. Immigration has a broad range of crimes that make you removable from the United States. Even if it’s a misdemeanor under criminal law, that doesn’t mean it’s a minor offence for immigration law. Generally, drug offences are going to always make you removable from the United States, except in the case of a small amount of marijuana if you are in the United States. Anything else, such as a theft offense, a fraud offense, or a violent felony can make you removable from the United States.

 Just because a criminal lawyer says something was dismissed, may not be true for immigration law.

Often time a lawful permanent resident will make the mistake that a plea agreement for time served, probation or conditional discharge is not a conviction, but it is for immigration purposes.  Just because a criminal lawyer says something was dismissed, may not be true for immigration law just because under criminal law it wasn’t a big penalty. If you didn’t go to jail and only did probation, that does not mean it’s not serious for immigration law. It’s very important to understand the criminal conviction and bring that to an immigration lawyer with all of your documentation to discuss it thoroughly and make sure you understand the consequences of that criminal conviction.  This can affect your chance of  applying for citizenship, if you decide to travel outside the country or even apply to renew your green card.

It is very important that your criminal lawyer tells you the immigration consequences or you speak with an immigration lawyer.

Most importantly, if you are dealing with a criminal case currently and have pending charges, it is very important that your criminal lawyer tells you the immigration consequences or you speak with an immigration lawyer. This required under criminal law now that a criminal lawyer makes certain that you understand the immigration consequences.

If you are in this situation and you would like to discuss the specifics of your case, please call our office to schedule a consultation via Skype or telephone. Because immigration is federal law, I can help you anywhere you live. We have clients in other countries, like Kuwait, Germany and throughout the U.S. whom we have never met in person and still help them get to their goal.

I am the owner and founder of Dahlia R Castillo Law Firm: A Virtual Immigration Law Office. My goal was to create an alternative way of providing immigration service at the convenience of the clients anytime and from anywhere by using bank grade technology. 

Top 10 Benefits of U.S. Citizenship

With the 2016 presidential election on the horizon, it begs the question, how many of you lawful permanent resident (LPR) or green card holders have thought about becoming U.S. citizens or have pending U.S. citizenship applications? Being a U.S. citizen has many benefits.

Main Benefits

The advantages of becoming a U.S. citizen over a permanent resident are many. Here are the top .

1. No Need To Renew Your Green Card. As a U.S citizen you will not need to renew your green card every 10 years  and you will no longer be required to carry your green card with you.

2. The Risk of Removal (Deportation) is Reduced. LPRs or Green Card holders may be removed for committing certain crimes. A U.S. citizen who commits a crime cannot be deported with certain limited exceptions. For example, if you lied to get your green card or U.S. citizenship, it will be revoked (taken back).

3. Easier Travel and Re-Entry into the U.S.  As green card holder, upon returning from your trips aboard, you generally have to deal with the long lines reserved for green card holders. This will no longer be the case when you are a U.S. citizen. These lines are generally shorter. Also, in many instances, you can visit foreign countries without a visa.

4. Ability to Take Long Trips Outside the United States. You will be allowed to take long trips out of the United States without the risk of losing your ability to return.

If you leave the U.S. for more than 180 days (6 months), as a permanent resident, you may lose your green card upon re-entry into the U.S. The immigration officer can deem that you have abandoned your green card and deny you entry back into the U.S. If you know you are leaving the U.S.for more than 6 months you should speak to an immigration attorney. You may be able to obtain a re-entry permit prior to leaving the United States. This would allow you to travel out of the United States for as long as 2 years without abandoning your green card.

5. Ability to Petition More Family Members. U.S. citizens can petition for more types of family member than  than green card holders. For example, only U.S. citizens may petition for  parent, siblings, married children and their fiancee. The waiting time for U.S. citizens petition is incredibly shorter than a green card holder.  If you wish to petition a family member, please consult with a competent immigration attorney before taking any action.

6. Ability of Your Green-Card-Holding Children to Become U.S. Citizens. When you become a U.S. citizen, your unmarried children under 18 will automatically become a U.S. citizen too!  However, they must meet the following criteria: They must be lawful permanent residents; they must be residing in the United States; and they must be in the legal and physical custody of the naturalizing parent.

7. Ability to Vote and to Run for Public Office. Only U.S. citizens may vote. Naturalized U.S. citizens can run for most elected public offices.

8. Ability to Obtain Federal Jobs, Grants, and Other Government Benefits. Certain jobs require U.S. citizenship. These include many local, state, and federal government jobs. Many federal grants and scholarships are available only to U.S. citizens.

9. Tax and Estate Reasons. U.S. citizens and green card holders are not always treated the same for tax and estate purposes. Speak to a Certified Public Accountant about these issues.

10. Ability to Obtain a U.S. Passport. U.S. citizens have the right to obtain a passport and the ability to obtain assistance from U.S. Embassies and Consulates when traveling in other countries.

Becoming a U.S. Citizen is 4 easy Steps

  1. You must meet the eligibility requirements. See Why is Good Moral Character Important for Permanent Residents?
  2. Submit form N-400 and pay the $680 filing fee (as of 2015)
  3. U.S. Citzenship & Immigration Service (USCIS) will scheduled an appointment for fingerprinting and a background check. If all goes well, you will interview with a USCIS immigration officer and take an English reading, writing and civics test. Some green card holders may be exempt from the English and Civics Requirements for Naturalization​.
  4. If all goes well at your naturalization interview, you receive a letter from USCIS with information for your Oath Ceremony where you will receive your certificate of naturalization.

Virtual Immigration Attorney: You Don’t Have to Give Up Time To See A Lawyer

VILO pic

What is a Virtual Immigration Law Office?

A Virtual Immigration Law Office (VILO) is an online law office that operates from the lawyer’s home or satellite office by providing a secure environment to clients 24 hours a day, seven days a week. VILOs provide an incredibly convenient way to take care of legal needs online while you work.

The VILO is NOT a DOCUMENT SERVICE that just provides pre-printed forms.

The VILO is NOT a DOCUMENT SERVICE that just provides pre-printed forms. I PERFORM much of the SAME tasks of traditional immigration law Office. I PREPARE ALL my clients for their USCIS interviews and consular interviews via Skype. I even attend the USCIS interviews with my clients if they need me.

Our legal fees are fixed, which means that they will not increase after you sign the fee agreement. Since every immigration case is unique, all clients are provided with an individualized attorney fee quote for services before we undertake your specific case.

4 Easy Steps:

How Does The Virtual Immigration Law Office Work?

SET UP A CONSULTATION: Sign-up and Pay for a consultation on-line or over the phone with a licensed attorney regarding your legal needs in a secure online website. You can speak to the attorney while on a lunch break or in your pajamas.
FEE AGREEMENTA fee agreement and attorney fee quote based on your specific circumstance will be emailed to you. You can email, fax, or mail the signed agreement and pay. Payment Plans available if you qualify.
VILO ACCOUNT CREATED: A VILO account is created and you receive your log-in credentials the attorney fee online or over the phone.
GET TO WORK: Welcome to your VILO! Now you can complete a questionnaire and upload the required supporting documents using your personal log-in credential. Documents requiring original signatures will be mailed to a P.O. Box.

Morale of the story….?

We can HANDLE your IMMIGRATION case whether you live in LOS ANGELES, NEW YORK or ANYWHERE in the UNITED STATES.

You do not have to take off time to meet with an attorney. No need to take off work, travel to a law office or wait to meet with an attorney.  You can use the VILO anywhere. You receive the same level of representation from a licensed attorney from the comfort of your home.
The VILO provide affordable immigration services in all areas of immigration law, including, but not limited to permanent resident green card, 601 A Waiver, K-1 Visa/Fiancee visa, US Citizenship and Naturalization law. Free initial immigration consultation by telephone or email are available to determine if you have immigration options.  The end!

Criminal Immigration: Did You Take An Immigration Safe Plea?

If you are an undocumented immigrant who have been arrested on criminal charges, you face two serious legal problems. First, you could be convicted of the crime and sentenced to jail or prison; and second, you could also be deported, whether you are convicted or found not guilty of the underlying criminal charge. If you are a legal resident in the U.S. and have been arrested, you are at risk of losing your immigration status (i.e. deported).


Undocumented Immigrant charged with a crime

It is highly likely that a noncitizen defendant (i.e. lawful permanent resident or LPR) or an undocumented immigrant defendant (UID) who was charged with a crime  and accepted plea for a lesser sentence or no jail time, between March 31, 2010 and December 1, 2013, is at risk of removal/deportation.

So what does this Mean? 

If you are a permanent resident (or green card holder) who accepted a plea deal and as a result of this plea deal you did not serve any jail time or you were offered less jail time in your criminal case, you are at risk of being deported. This is because the burden to inform the defendant of immigration consequences to his plea lies with your defense attorney.   Now, however, effective December 1, 2013, the burden is shared by the Court, as required by the amendment to Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.  In Padilla v. Kentucky, the Supreme Court held that criminal a defense MUST advise their noncitizen defendant of the immigration consequence that they may face if they accept a plea agreement. A criminal defense attorney’s failure to advise the defendant concerning the risk of removal is a violation of the Sixth Amendment.  That is right- as a non-U.S. citizen, YOU still have rights guaranteed to you by the U.S. Constitution.


How will the Court now protect your plea from immigration consequences based on the Padilla case?

Your criminal defense attorney MUST advise you (or consult with an immigration attorney) directly before you enter a plea, “If you are convicted, and you are not a United States citizen, you may be removed from the United States, denied citizenship, and denied admission to the United States in the future.”  But, this warning follows many other warnings of direct consequences of a plea, which means that you may not be paying much attention.


How can you ensure that you do not plead guilty to an offense that carries severe immigration consequences?

As the Supreme Court correctly pointed out in Padilla, “deportation is an integral part-indeed, sometimes the most important part- of the penalty that may be imposed on noncitizen defendants who plead guilty to specified crimes.”  My best answer to this question is for you to hire a criminal attorney who is well versed in immigration law, or a criminal defense attorney who will proactively seek the advice of an immigration attorney before entering your plea.

An immigration attorney who can proactively work out a safe plea is essential, especially after this new amendment.  While it appears that the new amendment protects you, it is actually to your detriment.  Rather, the new amendment protects the government and the Court from a defendant’s motion to vacate the conviction.


The Benefits of Working with an Immigration Attorney

Most criminal defense attorneys do not know the immigration consequences of crimes and or convictions. An immigration attorney can assist your criminal defense attorney by doing the following:

  • Review the paperwork in advance of the consultation, and brief legal research as necessary.
  • Review the noncitizen’s Intake Form and ’s immigration history and criminal cases;
  • Review the Chronology with the noncitizen to make sure it is accurate, and to add additional dates that are relevant to the analysis of the immigration problem and its potential solutions;
  • Analyze the noncitizen’s immigration status and the immigration consequences of the criminal history at each point throughout the Chronology;
  •  Identify the immigration risks the noncitizen faces, and seek arguments against the adverse immigration consequences that might flow from each conviction.


 Final Note….

If you are a noncitizen who have committed a crime, it is important that you contact a criminal defense attorney who is knowledgeable about immigration law or an immigration attorney to advise you on your options.  Likewise, if you have been offered a plea deal or have a conviction and uncertain of the effects of this plea deal or conviction on your immigration status, contact an immigration attorney to see if there are option to have that conviction vacated.



Immigration Officers Respond Like God Answers Prayers: “YES,” “NO,” “WAIT”

You have been waiting for months for the “Big” day – your green card interview.  You are overwhelmed by all sorts of emotions – excitement, anxiety, fear – all piled into one.  You are praying to God that your nerves do not get the best of you.  The immigration officer asks you a barrage of questions about your marriage and jots down notes.  The immigration officer flips through your application maybe about ten times. In spite of your nerves, you thought your interview well.  So towards the end you were pretty sure your green card would be approved on the spot.  But he hands you a piece of paper that  said your file is being held for further review.


Notice of Interview Results: “Your case is being held for review. At this time, USCIS does not require any further information or documents from you. Should further information or documents be required, you will receive a notice in the mail.”


Say what?!!!!!

What does this mean? Was my green card approved or denied?

The immigration officer responds to green card applicants like God answers prayers: “yes,” “no,” and “wait”.  

A notice of interview results is  not at all unusual.The green card interview can end in one of three ways: (1) approved with a temporary I-551 stamped in your passport, (2) application denied, or (3) your application is held for review.

Number three is the most confusing and frightening experience for the green card applicants and their families. Once the interview is completed, the officer may review the case and at times, may also review it with his/her supervisor. What normally happens, depending on the officer’s workload, he/she still has some security or background checks to conduct. The immigration officer will update the system to generate the approval notice and the green card.  As a matter of policy, the immigration officer must give the applicant something and this notice of review is the routine to let the green card applicant know that their application is still pending.  If any information is missing, the applicant will be notified and be provided with time to submit it. If all documentation is complete and there are no issues, then the green card applicant will be notified and receive his/her green card in the mail.

that we would be notified by mail of the decision, and we should wait 60 days before inquiring about the case status. He didn’t say anything else. We weren’t asked for any further evidence and the box for ‘background checks’ was not checked on the letter. The box that was checked just said: ‘your file is being held for further review before a decision can be made’.

Bottom line: Probably nothing to worry about.