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  Finance | Financial advice | Immigration | Special Needs | Accounting | Business | Labor Law | Asset Protection

IMMIGRATION

APPLYING FOR U.S. CITIZENSHIP


Dilip Patel
By GAIL S. SEERAM

Deciding to become a U.S. citizen is an important decision. Some of the benefits of becoming a U.S. citizen include the right to vote, receiving a U.S. passport that allows for freedom to travel, participating in the judicial process by serving on a jury, and having visa priority when sponsoring an immediate relative. If you are not a U.S. citizen by birth, you may still be eligible to become a U.S. citizen through the normal naturalization process. The following is a brief summary of the naturalization eligibility requirements for people who are 18 years or older and who will file an “Application for Naturalization.” The information below also can be found on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Web site at www.uscis.gov.

Age: Applicants must be at least 18 years old.

Residence and Physical Presence: An applicant is eligible to file if, immediately preceding the filing of the application, he or she:

* has been lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence;

* has resided continuously as a lawful permanent resident in the U.S. for at least 5 years (3 years if married to U.S. citizen and 3 years if served in U.S. Armed Forces) prior to filing with no single absence from the United States of more than one year.

Good Moral Character: Generally, an applicant must show that he or she has been a person of good moral character for the statutory period (typically five years or three years if married to a U.S. citizen) prior to filing for naturalization. The Service is not limited to the statutory period in determining whether an applicant has established good moral character. An applicant is permanently barred from naturalization if he or she has ever been convicted of murder. An applicant may also be permanently barred from naturalization if he or she has been convicted of an aggravated felony. An applicant must disclose all relevant facts to the Service, including his or her entire criminal history, regardless of whether the criminal history disqualifies the applicant under the law.

Language: Applicants for naturalization must be able to read, write, speak, and understand words in ordinary usage in the English language.

United States Government and History Knowledge: An applicant for naturalization must demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of the history and of the principles and form of government of the United States.

It may be encouraging to know that USCIS announced in September 2006 that they eliminated the backlog for the Application for Naturalization, meaning the processing time fell from a previous high of 14 months in February 2004, to about 5 months. Currently, the average processing time for the Application for Naturalization is less than six months.

Gail S. Seeram, an immigration attorney, handles cases involving family petitions, business/investors visas, citizenship, deportation, work authorization and extension of status. Call her office toll-free at 1-877-GAIL-LAW (1-877-424-5529) or e-mail gailseeram@lawyer.com.


Finance | Financial advice | Immigration | Special Needs | Accounting | Business | Labor Law | Asset Protection



Nikhil Joshi
LABOR LAW

IMPLICATIONS OF MERGERS AND ACQUISITIONS – PART III
By NIKHIL N. JOSHI, J.D., M.B.A.

This is the last of a three-part series of articles on the labor law-related challenges that entrepreneurs can face when they grow their businesses in part due to acquisitions of other properties that present an opportunity to enter a new market, to obtain greater economies of scale or to gain other value-added benefits.

As stated in prior articles, with the growth of mergers and acquisitions of such properties, it is incumbent upon those individuals considering acquisition to conduct a thorough due diligence, beyond mere financial review, of the properties under evaluation. We have already discussed the impact of the general employment laws and the labor (union-related) laws. Today, we will consider the three remaining areas, including the “employee benefits laws,” the immigration laws and the laws governing mass layoffs.

EMPLOYEE BENEFITS LAWS

As part of its due diligence, the purchaser must seriously evaluate any retirement and/or benefit plans put into effect by the seller. The laws governing employee retirement and welfare benefits are extremely complex. Their application to the benefits implemented at the seller’s workplace, and thus any legal obligations that may arise, must be examined by experienced labor counsel, auditors and tax counsel to ensure compliance.

This examination is even more critical in the event the seller’s benefit plans are part of a multi-employer pension and benefits plan administered by a union. In the latter situation, the seller has a fiduciary responsibility to ensure the pension plan is not under-funded. If the plan is under-funded, the seller and, in some cases, the buyer may be assessed liability and steep financial penalties for the failure to adequately fund the plan under the federal labor and benefits laws.

IMMIGRATION LAWS

Under the Immigration and Reform Control Act of 1996, the purchaser is responsible for ensuring that all immigration-related documentation applicable to the seller’s employees complies with the law. To wit, as the successor employer, the purchaser must review the I-9 Forms for all employees who will continue working for the purchaser to ensure that they remain eligible to work in the United States. It is recommended that the employees be asked to freshly complete I-9 forms when the new owners take over.

Moreover, certain positions in transient businesses such as hotel or resort operations may be staffed by workers of foreign origin who hold special work visas. These visas may be particular to the employer/business and may limit the worker to the specific position held. Immigration compliance issues may arise if there are any changes to the position or any changes to the employing entity. As a result, if the purchaser would like to continue the relationship with a worker on a visa in compliance with the immigration laws, it may have to evaluate the options available to amend the employment-based visa petition.

LAYOFFS

In some cases, if the purchaser is not acquiring the rights to retain the workforce of the seller, which will result in the termination of the seller’s employees, then the seller may have to comply with obligations under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) and state and/or local laws dealing with mass layoffs and closings. Employers who are covered under these laws have obligations to provide advance notice to employees who will be affected by the mass layoff or closing and, in some cases, to the municipality and state where the business resides.

Failure to do so may result in penalties being assessed against the employer in addition to the monetary remedies available to the employees who were not provided such notice. To determine whether your business is subject to these laws, please consult with your labor counsel as the threshold for coverage and compliance varies depending on the circumstances of the closure or layoff.

The information presented in this article is general in nature. Nothing in this article is intended to provide specific legal advice. Please contact your labor counsel or other counsel if you have any particular issues that require attention.

Nikhil N. Joshi, a labor counsel with concentration in Human Resources Management at Kunkel Miller & Hament, P.A. in Sarasota, can be reached at 800-828-7133 or e-mail nikhil@laborattys.com



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