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Law Office of Michael Tonder, P.C.
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I often get calls with the following fact pattern.  A  U.S. citizen marries a foreigner (“spouse”).  The U.S. citizen sponsors the spouse and a conditional green card is issued.  Before it is time to remove the conditions, the U.S. citizen and spouse have a falling out.  Now the spouse is worried that the U.S. citizen will not help them remove the conditions on their conditional green card.  What can they do? 

Hopefully, the couple will find a way to work things out. If they can’t, the spouse can still get the conditions removed without the help of the U.S. citizen.   If the couple divorces, the spouse can file a divorce waiver with USCIS.  The spouse will still need to show the marriage was entered into in good faith.  It will also help if the foreign spouse’s actions were not the cause of the divorce. 

What to do BEFORE filing a disability claim.

A Social Security Disability Insurance Benefit (“DIB”) or Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) claim can be a life altering experience.  If the claim is awarded, the disabled person will receive monetary benefits plus medical insurance.  Although a person will not get rich from disability, it is better than having zero income and being uninsured.   It is important to put your best foot forward if you are thinking of filing an application for disability.  Here are some tips I give people if they are thinking about filing a claim:

Try to save enough income to cover living expenses for a year.  Sometimes it takes over a year before an application is approved.  

Try to keep your medical insurance for as long as you can.  

Talk to your doctor about a potential disability claim before your insurance expires.  It might be difficult to see your doctor once your insurance expires.  

Try to get all scans, x-rays, and lab work done before your insurance expires.  

Obtain letters from former employers detailing how your medical condition affected your job performance.  

These are a few tips I tell people if they are thinking about filing a disability application.  

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Please join me at the Mobile Civic Center on November 23, 2013, for the Mobile International Festival. I am a sponsor of the event and will have a booth set up explaining the immigration process. Please come and experience the rich diversity of our city. For more information please go to

I’ve had a handful of people ask me questions about renewing their green cards.  After reviewing everything I asked the person “have you ever thought about becoming an American citizen?”  I was surprised to hear that many did not know they could become a citizen.

The requirements for a green card holder to become a citizen are listed here.  The last requirement, good moral character, has tripped up many applying for citizenship.

The definition of good moral character is broad and the catch-all “Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude” (CIMT) has caught many immigrants off guard when applying for citizenship.  As stated in the regulations, a CIMT can bar citizenship.

To determine whether a CIMT has been committed, the state criminal statute where the crime was committed has to be examined.   Different states might have different requirements for a crime, although they are named the same. A thorough review of the statute is required.

Because the issue of CIMT can cause so much trouble, it is best to sit down with an attorney and discuss your legal history.  Write down every arrest, conviction, or any run in with the authorities you have had, when it happened, where it happened, and the outcome.  This will allow the attorney to research and determine whether you have a chance of gaining citizenship.

Good luck!

No representation is made that the quality of the legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers

Immigrants and Nonimmigrants.

Noncitizens are generally placed into one of three categories: immigrant, nonimmigrant, or refugee.  Immigrants and nonimmigrants will be briefly discussed in this blog post.

What is an immigrant?  An immigrant is a noncitizen lawfully admitted to the U.S. with the intention of becoming a permanent resident. Usually, noncitizens seeking permanent residence fall into one of three classes: family sponsored, employment based, diversity immigrants, and refugees. Future blog posts will discuss these areas, among other things.

What is a nonimmigrant?  Generally, a nonimmigrant is someone who enters the U.S. only for a specified period and whose activities are limited by a visa.  There are numerous visas types covering individuals from students to famous international musicians.

Normally, a nonimmigrant visa must be obtained at a U.S. consulate.  If the consulate issues a visa, the nonimmigrant may then travel to the U.S., where a second review can take place.  Once the nonimmigrant is admitted at the boarder, he or she is given an I-94.  The nonimmigrant may then act within the limitations of the visa.  Many types of nonimmigrants can file for an extension of status to extend their stay and some may even change their status if conditions warrant.   Generally, when the visa expires the nonimmigrant is expected to leave the U.S.

 No representation is made that the quality of the legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers.

So, you lost your Social Security Disability claim.  Now what?

Many people choose to attend their Social Security Disability hearing without representation.  Some win. Some lose.  What are your options if an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) issues an Unfavorable Decision (“UFD”)?

First off, you should consider your appeal options.  You can appeal a UFD to the Appeals Council.  You only have sixty days from the date of the UFD to appeal.  If you miss the deadline to appeal you must show good cause why your appeal is late.  The Appeals Council has the authority to reverse the ALJ’s decision, remand it for a new hearing, or keep it the same.  If you do not appeal the UFD, it become final and it is extremely difficult to change the decision later.

You can also decide to file a new claim for benefits.  This is usually not recommended because you are essentially giving up all of your past due benefits, which can be a substantial amount of money and insurance.  However, sometimes this is the best option for the claimant.  Your situation will determine whether you should file a new claim.

If you represented yourself before an ALJ and received a UFD, you should make an appointment to speak with an experienced disability attorney to discuss your options.

No representation is made that the quality of the legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers.
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